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Scarlett Johansson Takes Legal Action Over ‘Eerily Similar’ AI Voice

May 22, 2024 10:16 am in by Sarah Tate
Image: Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images)

Scarlett Johansson is accusing OpenAI CEO Sam Altman of using tools to recreate her voice for the chatbot of his company’s ChatGPT AI system.

The Black Widow star claimed in a lengthy statement that despite turning down the opportunity to voice the ChatGPT chatbot last year, the company allegedly recreated her voice anyway to use for its system, per Entertainment Tonight.

“Last September, I received an offer from Sam Altman, who wanted to hire me to voice the current ChatGPT 4.0 system,” she said. “He 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. He said he felt that my voice would be comforting people.”

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Johansson said she ultimately declined the offer “after much consideration and for personal reasons,” but when the company unveiled its new system named Sky nine months later, she explained that “my friends, family and the general public all noted how much [it] sounded like me.”

The Marvel star said the allegedly recreated voice “sounded so eerily similar to mine that my closest friends and news outlets could not tell the difference,” adding that she is “shocked, angered and in disbelief” that Altman would use a voice similar to hers even after she declined his company’s offer. Altman was seemingly inspired to reach out to Johansson after she starred in the 2013 film Her where she voiced an AI system, a point that the actress made in her statement.

“Mr. Altman even insinuated that the similarity was intentional, tweeting a single word ‘her’ – a reference to the film in which I voiced a chat system, Samantha, who forms an intimate relationship with a human,” she said.

Johannson also stated Altman reached out to her agent days before the Sky demo was released asking her to reconsider but the demo “was out there” before she could respond. As a result, she hired legal counsel who sent letters to both Altman and OpenAI “setting out what they had done and asking them to detail the exact process by which they created the ‘Sky’ voice.” The company has since halted using the voice.

The Lost In Translation actress also spoke about why she felt it was important to address how AI is being used to recreate others’ likenesses, especially if they do not agree to it.

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“In a time when we are all grappling with deepfakes and the protection of our own likeness, our own work, our own identities, I believe these are questions that deserve absolute clarity,” she said. “I look forward to resolution in the form of transparency and the passage of appropriate legislation to help ensure that individual rights are protected.”

Following Johansson’s claims, Altman addressed the situation in a statement to The Verge.

“The voice of Sky is not Scarlett Johansson’s, and it was never intended to resemble hers,” he said. “We cast the voice actor behind Sky’s voice before any outreach to Ms. Johansson. Out of respect for Ms. Johansson, we have paused using Sky’s voice in our products. We are sorry to Ms. Johansson that we didn’t communicate better.”

This article first appeared on iHeart.com and was reproduced with permission.

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