Now is the right time to become an American Federation of Musicians member. From ragtime to rap, from the early phonograph to today's digital recordings, the AFM has been there for its members. And now there are more benefits available to AFM members than ever before, including a multi-million dollar pension fund, excellent contract protection, instrument and travelers insurance, work referral programs and access to licensed booking agents to keep you working.
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December 1, 2023Alfonso Pollard -
As the AFM looks to protect our musicians from the threat artificial intelligence (AI) poses to their livelihoods, we are working with the federal government to help develop legislation to serve that purpose. In addition to threats to copyright, sales, and licensing, AI could be used to compose and perform music. Some countries have developed robots that play actual musical instruments. While this may seem a distant threat, prototypes of these robots are already in development.
AI is no new challenge to the AFM, which has been battling the initiation of new technologies since the advent of the phonograph recorder. The union successfully negotiated a resolution with the recording industry to develop the Music Performance Trust Fund, which for the last 75 years has provided funding for AFM musicians to give free public concerts as a negotiated resolution for jobs lost to recordings.
The Arts, Entertainment, and Media Industry Coordinating Committee (AEMI), consisting of Department for Professional Employees affiliates like the AFM, has submitted comments to the US State Department and the US Copyright Office outlining the imminent threat of AI to creative professionals.
The Oxford Dictionary definition of AI is: “The theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.”
As these computer systems grow, we see the integration of AI in machines capable of such independent thought that they can absorb the language of music. These machines are capable of reproducing so many aspects of the science of music that institutions such as the White House Office of Science and Technology Policies, the US Copyright Office, and the National Endowment for the Arts are developing new policies to protect the rights of workers in music and other industries.
In the current AI environment, Congress and the Biden Administration appear to be ahead of the curve having introduced several pieces of AI related policies and legislation designed to specifically protect the creative community.
The Nurture Originals, Foster Art, and Keep Entertainment Safe (NO FAKES) Act, introduced by Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), is designed to protect unsuspecting creative professionals against generative AI, which effectively duplicates images, voice, and language, often without the knowledge or consent of the targeted artist.
The AI Labeling Act, introduced by Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and John Kennedy (R-LA), would provide more transparency on content generated by AI by ensuring people know, through labels and disclosures, when they are viewing AI-made content or interacting with an AI chatbot.
The AFM’s objective must focus on the inclusion of provisions in these bills to protect musicians from job elimination due to this technology, similar to current campaigns against the use of KeyComp and virtual orchestra machines.
Indeed, the AFL-CIO recognizes the complex effects of AI technology on working Americans and has joined with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to help establish new federal rules to protect workers and prevent AI from trampling worker rights and negatively disrupting the workplace. The White House is creating a blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights and President Biden has outlined the challenge posed to democracy by the use of technology, data, and automated systems that threaten the rights of the American public.
“Too often, these tools are used to limit our opportunities and prevent our access to critical resources or services,” he said. “Unchecked social media data collection has been used to threaten people’s opportunities, undermine their privacy, or pervasively track their activity—often without their knowledge or consent. In America and around the world, systems that are supposed to help with patient care have proven unsafe, ineffective, or biased. Algorithms used in hiring and credit decisions have been found to reflect and reproduce existing unwanted inequities or embed new harmful bias and discrimination.”
On a recent call between AFL-CIO affiliate unions and the White House Technology Office, staff carefully reviewed a 75-page presidential directive titled “Executive Order on the Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence.” This important progress must not come at the price of civil rights or democratic values, foundational American principles that Biden has affirmed as a cornerstone of his administration.