OpenAI accused of mimicking Scarlett Johansson, tech company pauses ChatGPT voice

FILE - Scarlett Johansson attends the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on Feb. 9, 2020, in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Toni Anne Barson/WireImage)

Scarlett Johansson is "angered and in disbelief" by tech company OpenAI over its ChatGPT app's voice, Sky, noting it uses a voice very similar to hers.

On Monday, just shy of a week after OpenAI debuted the voice, Johansson's publicist, Marcel Pariseau, issued a statement to FOX Business explaining that the actress' legal team had sent the tech company two letters asking them to explain their process of how they came up with the personal assistant's voice in their artifical intelligence technology.

OpenAI demonstrated the voice last week, NPR reported, and many observers found an uncanny likeness between the assistant's voice and Johansson's voice in the 2013 sci-fi film "Her." The movie focused on a man falling in love with the voice of the female operating system on his computer.

According to the outlet, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman previously said that "Her" was his favorite movie. Just last week, Altman took to X, formerly known as Twitter, and simply wrote "her."


Johansson's statement to FOX Business read, "Last September, I received an offer from Sam Altman, who wanted to hire me to voice the current ChatGPT 4.0 system. 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 to people." 

She explained that "after much consideration and for personal reasons, I declined the offer."

"Nine months later, my friends, family and the general public all noted how much the newest system named ‘Sky’ sounded like me," the statement continued.

"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 that my closest friends and news outlets could not tell the difference. 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," Johansson continued. 

"Two days before the ChatGPT 4.0 demo was released, Mr. Altman contacted my agent, asking me to reconsider. Before we could connect, the system was out there. As a result of their actions, I was forced to hire legal counsel, who wrote two letters to Mr. Altman and OpenAI, setting out what they had done and asking them to detail the exact process by which they created the ‘Sky’ voice," Scarlett continued.

"Consequently, OpenAI reluctantly agreed to take down the ‘Sky’ voice. 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. I look forward to resolution in the form of transparency and the passage of appropriate legislation to help ensure that individual rights are protected," the statement concluded.

Altman issued a statement to FOX Business regarding Sky's voice on Monday.

"The voice of Sky is not Scarlett Johansson's, and it was never intended to resemble hers. 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," the statement said.

This is not the first time Johansson's voice has been manipulated without her consent.

In November, the "Black Widow" star took legal action, per Variety, against an AI image-generating app called Lisa AI: 90s Yearbook & Avatar for her voice and likeness in an ad posted on X.

Johansson’s attorney told the outlet, "We do not take these things lightly. Per our usual course of action in these circumstances, we will deal with it with all legal remedies that we will have."

In the ad, posted on Oct. 28 but apparently no longer available, footage of Johansson behind the scenes on "Black Widow" is used, with her saying, "What’s up guys? It’s Scarlett, and I want you to come with me …" before a graphic covers her mouth and the screen shows AI-generated images that resemble her.


A sound-alike voice is heard saying, "It’s not limited to avatars only. You can also create images with texts and even your AI videos. I think you shouldn’t miss it."

There was fine print under the ad that read, "Images produced by Lisa AI. It has nothing to do with this person."

In October, a proposed No Fakes Act was released as a discussion draft by a bipartisan group of senators, according to Bloomberg Law.

It would establish the federal right to control one’s own image and voice, also known as the right of publicity, and allow individuals to control digital replicas, a protection that would exist for 70 years after their death.

The penalties include a fine of $5,000 per violation and any economic damages that can be proven in court.

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