Albany threatens tax breaks for movie and TV industry over AI

ALBANY – Aaaand cut! New York lawmakers promise to end a lucrative tax break for film and TV productions if they replace humans with artificial intelligence.

“With the advent of AI, we want to ensure that we continue to protect workers and create jobs for New Yorkers,” Sen. Lea Webb (D-Binghamton) said in a statement regarding the project. bill she introduced on Wednesday.

“It is important to ensure that the money we invest in economic development is actually spent here.

The legislation is the latest state-level proposal to curb AI as the emerging technology becomes more integrated into government programs, politics and daily life.

Bills pending before the legislature include measures to crack down on the use of AI in hiring, politics and advertising. Other legislation would set up a state commission to study how best to regulate AI and robotics.

Webb’s bill would specifically prohibit television and film companies from qualifying for the lucrative “subsidy” while using “synthetic media in any component of production that would displace any natural person.”

State Senator Lea Webb proposed the bill as striking television writers negotiate the future use of AI with production companies.
Lea Webb / Facebook

AI could benefit from some legislative attention given its growing influence on the lives of New Yorkers, according to tech expert Albert Fox Cahn, a fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government and Yale Law. Harvard School.

“AI is neither our friend nor our enemy. It is power,” Cahn told The Post on Thursday.

“And if we effectively regulate how that power is used and who we impact, it can be a transformative force for good, but if we allow it to simply be co-opted by private industry, or miss out regulation with poorly drafted laws, it will be a dystopian nightmare.

A finger pointing to a screen with ChatBotAI labeled at the top in front of a blurred desktop background.
TV writers have expressed concern that they will be replaced by AI technology in the near future.
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Empire State Development declined to comment on the extent to which film and TV productions could currently use AI while still qualifying for the much-criticized program that Democrats in Albany have expanded to $700 million a year in the new budget. of State.

Striking TV writers are pushing to limit AI involvement in the creation of shows amid ongoing negotiations with Hollywood bigwigs.

The State Capitol on a cloudy spring day with a statue of Sheridan on a horse in front of the gothic style building
There are only two weeks left before state lawmakers leave the state capitol for the year on June 8.
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Cahn praised the “intent” of Webb’s bill while pointing out some problems with the legislative language.

“The bill says synthetic media means tags, images, videos, entirely created or even modified through the use of AI algorithms, but from a computing perspective, that doesn’t matter. almost no sense,” he said.

“There are many tools that animators, editors and others in the film industry rely on every day that could potentially be swept away.”

Technical expert Albert Fox Cahn with a beard and glasses standing against a colorful wall while wearing a blazer
Technology expert Albert Fox Cahn is a fellow of the John F. Kennedy School of Government and Yale Law School at Harvard.
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Webb did not say whether she had an Assembly sponsor for her bill with only two weeks until the scheduled last day of the 2023 legislative session on June 8.

It also leaves little time to amend the bill, although Webb expressed “hope” to get the bill passed despite the obstacles.

Ken Girardin, a fellow at the Empire Center for Public Policy, said Webb’s proposal was already doing some good, pointing to the controversial tax credit that good government groups have criticized for years as a big waste of money of taxpayers despite statements to the contrary by state officials. .

“By all means, please warn New Yorkers what some politically wired film and TV producers are doing with this $700 million giveaway that most taxpayers don’t know about,” Girardin said. tweeted Thursday about Webb’s bill.


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