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Scarlett Johansson criticizes OpenAI for using voice similar to hers in new chatbot

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Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson expressed shock and anger after OpenAI launched a chatbot featuring a voice that closely resembled her own. Johansson revealed that she had previously declined an offer from OpenAI to voice their new chatbot, which reads text aloud to users. The voice, named “Sky,” immediately drew comparisons to Johansson’s role in the 2013 film Her, where she voiced an AI system named Samantha.

OpenAI responded on Monday, stating they would remove the voice, asserting it was never intended to mimic Johansson’s voice. However, Johansson accused the company and its founder, Sam Altman, of intentionally copying her voice.

Johansson expressed disbelief and frustration over the situation. She mentioned that Altman even referenced the film Her in a tweet, further insinuating the similarity was deliberate.

Johansson disclosed that she was first approached by Altman in September, who suggested her involvement could bridge the gap between technology companies and creatives, making users more comfortable with AI.

Despite this, she ultimately declined for personal reasons. Shortly before the chatbot’s release, Altman contacted her agent, urging her to reconsider, but she stood by her decision.

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Due to the situation, Johansson has hired legal counsel and sent two legal letters to OpenAI to understand how the voice was developed. She emphasized the importance of clarity in an era where concerns about deepfakes and personal likeness protection are prevalent.

OpenAI denied any intention to imitate Johansson’s voice and announced they would pause using the voice out of respect for her. The company claimed the voice actor was cast before reaching out to Johansson. Additionally, OpenAI mentioned they are working to pause the use of Sky’s voice while addressing the issue publicly on X (formerly Twitter).

This controversy arises just six months after actors ended strikes demanding better pay and safeguards against AI imitating their likenesses without consent. The agreement with studios assured that AI would not be used to replicate actors’ voices or faces without permission. Dan Stein, head of AI voice licensing company Voice-Swap, criticized OpenAI’s actions, highlighting the invasive nature of using someone’s voice without consent and the broader implications for copyright and consent.

OpenAI has faced various legal challenges regarding its use of copyrighted content. The New York Times and authors George R.R. Martin and John Grisham have pursued legal action against the company, alleging that it used their works to train its AI systems without permission.

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