Studios are left out of the fight against artificial intelligence

Bloomberg reported that OpenAI is partnering with Apple to give the iPhone maker a seat on its board, giving the Sam Altman-led company another entry point into Hollywood as the industry grapples with artificial intelligence tools that have the potential to upend manufacturing — and the livelihoods of developers who fear being replaced by the technology.

Under a deal announced last month, Apple App Store chief and former marketing chief Phil Schiller will take on the role of what Bloomberg calls an “observer.” Under the agreement, he will be able to attend board meetings and gain insight into the company's operations — which includes courting Hollywood to adopt its products — but will not be allowed to vote.

The move follows OpenAI's unveiling of Sora in February, an AI tool that can create hyper-realistic videos. In response to a text prompt of just a few sentences, it can apparently create videos of complex scenes with multiple characters, a range of different shot types, and mostly accurate details of the subjects in relation to their background. Beta testers who provide OpenAI with feedback on how to improve the technology have launched their own projects using Sora as part of the company's Hollywood push.

Apple's growing partnership with OpenAI raises further doubts about the standing of major studios and the Motion Picture Association, whose members include Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery and Netflix, when it comes to using intellectual property to train AI systems. OpenAI is facing a barrage of lawsuits from most sectors of the creative industry, including artists, writers and music publishers, accusing the company of misusing copyrighted material to boost its multi-billion dollar value as it appears to be encroaching on the entertainment industry.

When asked by CNBC whether AI companies have “actually stolen the world's intellectual property,” Mustafa Suleyman, Microsoft's AI chief, replied: “Anyone can copy it, create something new with it, and reproduce it. It's kind of 'freeware,' the thinking goes.”

With AI among the most contentious topics in Hollywood, creatives have taken note of comments from tech executives suggesting displacement. OpenAI's chief technology officer said in June that the company's tools could potentially eliminate jobs. “Some creative jobs may disappear, but maybe they shouldn't have existed in the first place if the content that comes out of it isn't very high quality,” she explained.

Studios are among the most notable groups that have chosen not to sue AI companies that may use copyrighted material in training data. AI image generators are increasingly producing near-exact recreations of movie images. When asked to type “Thanos Infinity War,” Midjourney — an AI program that translates text into hyper-realistic graphics — returns an image of the purple-skinned villain in a frame that appears to be from the Marvel film or promotional materials, with little to no alterations. A shot of Tom Cruise in the cockpit of a fighter jet, from Top Shooter: Maverickoccurs in a similar way when the tool is asked for a single frame from the film.

Some of the MPA's newest members, including Apple and Amazon, may have sowed discord among studios that might choose to license their content catalog to AI companies, as some publishers do, among the industry's leaders seeking to develop and commercialize the technology.

In response to the Copyright Office's investigation into policy issues surrounding the intersection of AI and intellectual property, the MPA came to differing views with SAG-AFTRA, the Writers Guild of America, and the Directors Guild of America on several sensitive issues. Along with OpenAI, Meta, and technology advocacy groups, the MPA disagreed with the unions on whether new laws are justified to stop the unauthorized use of copyrighted material to train AI systems and the mass creation of potentially infringing works based on existing content. The group took the view that existing intellectual property laws are sufficient to resolve the thorny legal questions raised by this technology. This contrasted with SAG-AFTRA's call for a federal privacy law that would protect members' rights to profit from their images, voices, and likenesses.

Earlier this month, the Chamber of Progress, a technology industry coalition that includes Amazon, Apple and Meta, among others, launched a campaign to defend the legality of using copyrighted works to train artificial intelligence systems.