Scarlett Johansson Upset with OpenAI Over Voice Usage Resembling Hers

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Scarlett Johansson, the Hollywood star accused OpenAI for using a voice that is “eerily similar” to her own in its newly launched chatbot, Sky voice. She said she felt “shocked” and “angered”, after hearing the voice. Johansson also said that she had earlier turned down an approach by the company to voice its new chatbot, that reads text aloud to its users.

In a statement given to the media, the star said that her lawyers contacted OpenAI to have the voice for Sky voice, the new voice in the GPT-4o chatbot to be pulled down. The OpenAI launched Sky voices last week, and it sounded very much like Johansson’s disembodied AI companion in Spike Jonze’s 2013 movie, Her.

OpenAI said it would “pause” the use of the Sky voice, and added that the AI voices should not deliberately mimic a celebrity’s distinctive voice. It further added that Sky’s voice is not an imitation of Scarlett Johansson but a different professional actress, who use her own natural speaking voice.

Johansson accused OpenAI and its CEO Sam Altman for deliberately copying her voice. She said, “When I heard the released demo, I was shocked, angered and in disbelief that Mr Altman would pursue a voice that sounded so eerily similar to mine”.

She further added that Altman even insinuated that the similarity was intentional, tweeting a single word ‘her’ – a reference to the film in which Johansson voiced a chat system, Samantha, who forms an intimate relationship with a human.

The Black Widow star said Altman told her that by using her voice in the system, people would find it comforting. She said, “[Mr Altman] told me that he felt that by my voicing the system, I could bridge the gap between tech companies and creatives and help consumers to feel comfortable with the seismic shift concerning humans and AI”, as quoted by media.

Stating that she was forced to appoint two lawyers, Johansson said, she want a clarification on how the voice had been made. “In a time when we are all grappling with deepfakes and the protection of our likeness, our work, our own identities, I believe these are questions that deserve absolute clarity”, said the star.

Notably, this is not the first time OpenAI has been under scrutiny. Last December, the New York Times said it had planned to launch a lawsuit against the company over the claim that it had used “millions” of the media organisation’s articles to train its ChatGPT model. And in September 2023, authors George R R Martin and John Grisham also announced to pursue a lawsuit alleging that their copyright had been infringed to train the system.

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