Joseph Gordon-Levitt Says Anyone Whose Work Is Used to Train AI Should Get Paid: ‘That’s Called Residuals’ (Video)

The actor warned that the issues around the technology go “beyond Hollywood,” calling film and TV “a canary in the coal mine”

Joseph Gordon Levitt has taken aim at the major film and television studios and any other industry considering using artificial intelligence in a new op-ed for the Washington Post titled “AI Should Pay Actors and Trainers.”

“I’ve been fascinated with AI for years and as the technology is getting more and more powerful. I’ve just grown really concerned about what it’ll might mean for my industry and honestly not even so much just for my livelihood but people I work with,” the actor told Morning Joe on Wednesday. “Those camera operators and sound mixers, the people that are like family to me. We work really long hours together and I’m very concerned with what this technology is going to mean for them and their lives.”

He added that the issue goes “beyond Hollywood.”

“I think the technology is going to impact so many different industries and maybe the film and television industry is sort of a canary in the coal mine,” he warned. “So what I’m suggesting is if an AI has used your work to be built, they call it trained, and that AI makes money, you should get a piece of that money and in the entertainment industry that’s called residuals.”

Protections against AI are a core issue at the heart of the labor dispute between SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild of America and the major entertainment giants like Disney, Netflix and Warner Bros. Discovery.

He argued that AI is just “imitating a ton of text that it has ingested from human writers”

“They feed it a huge set of training data and then it sort of finds the patterns in that data and it recombines and spits it out. That data was all produced by humans and it can be a bit of a magic trick to say, ‘Well the AI did it, the people didn’t do it’ but that’s not true. It was all done by people and then kind of recombined by the AI. Those people whose data was used to train the AIs, those people deserve compensation.”

Actors and writers aren’t the only people in the entertainment industry being negatively impacted by the strike.

“It’s also important to talk about another labor union which is not currently on strike … IATSE,” Levitt said. “IATSE is the labor union of the crew members, of the people who are operating the camera and the lights and setting up the set and doing the hair and makeup and wardrobe, tons of people who can’t work right now because the studios won’t give a fair deal to the actors and the writers.”

While AI is not yet at the point where it can make a movie without help from humans, Levitt warned that “soon enough it will be indistinguishable.”

“The tech is just getting better and better and it will be very hard to tell a movie that was made by AI versus a movie that was made by people and again that goes to all different industries,” he said. “The tech is getting very, very good. So you’re not going to be able to tell.” 

Levitt’s op-ed and comments on “Morning Joe” comes after President Joe Biden met with top AI companies including Amazon, Anthropic, Google, Inflection, Meta, Microsoft and OpenAI in an effort to work together to curb the technology’s potential dangers.

Biden is preparing an executive order and brokering bipartisan legislation in Congress to reign in the use of AI to steal information, images, ideas and artwork through the internet.

“This is something that I think a single labor union in a single labor industry can’t really address. It’s got to be something that’s addressed in Washington and encouragingly there is some movement it seems in Congress and the White House towards regulating AI,” Levitt said. “What I would love to see is that when that legislation passes that this is one of the issues they’re addressing, that people should not have their work used to train AIs that are making all this money without getting a piece of that money.”

Watch the full interview in the video above.