Scarlett Johansson Furious Over How Much OpenAI’s New Voice Mimics Hers!

OpenAI’s new voice assistant technology, which premiered recently, has sparked comparisons to the science fiction movie “Her” directed by Spike Jonze in 2013.

Ironically, the similarities may be uncomfortably close.

Scarlett Johansson, who voiced the computer program in “Her,” said she engaged lawyers when she discovered OpenAI launched a ChatGPT voice that sounded suspiciously like hers without her consent.

In a statement released on Monday, Johansson revealed that Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, approached her in September to voice the ChatGPT 4.0 system. However, she declined the offer. Altman believed Johansson’s voice would provide comfort to users, according to her statement.

Johansson was both surprised and angry when she heard a voice in an OpenAI demonstration that resembled hers, especially after she had declined the offer. Altman had reached out to her agent two days prior to the demo asking her to reconsider, Johansson noted.

In the film “Her,” Johansson portrays “Samantha,” the disembodied voice of a computer that provides companionship and eventually love to a solitary man played by Joaquin Phoenix.

“At a time when we’re all grappling with deepfakes and the protection of our own likeness, our work, and our identities, it’s important to have absolute clarity,” Johansson stated. She expressed her anticipation for transparency and the enactment of suitable legislation to protect individual rights.

On Monday, OpenAI announced it is suspending the use of the voice known as “Sky,” which some believe sounds like Johansson.

“We’ve received inquiries about our selection of voices for ChatGPT, particularly Sky,” OpenAI posted on Monday. “We’re in the process of pausing the use of Sky while we address these queries.”

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Altman furthered the comparison to the film in his announcement of the interactive voice feature, stating in a blog post that it “resembles AI from the movies.” The movie “Her” was nominated for several Oscars, with Jonze taking home the Academy Award for original screenplay.

On May 13, Altman posted the word “her” on his blog, which many perceived as alluding to the award-winning film.

Despite the noticeable auditory resemblance, OpenAI clarified that Johansson had not provided the voice for Sky, one of several voice options available on the app. Another actor used her own “natural speaking voice,” OpenAI stated in a blog post on Monday.

The company expressed its belief that “AI voices should not intentionally mimic a celebrity’s unique voice.”

In a statement, Altman explained that the voice actor for Sky was hired before reaching out to Johansson. He emphasized that Sky’s voice was not intended to mimic Johansson’s, and apologized for the lack of clear communication.

This controversy arises amidst growing concerns in the entertainment industry about the use of copyrighted material in training AI models.

OpenAI claims that its large language models, including those powering ChatGPT, are developed using publicly accessible information on the internet, licensed material from third parties, and data supplied by users and “human trainers.”

The company maintains that using publicly available materials on the internet for training AI models is “fair use.”

However, several media outlets, including the New York Times, have sued OpenAI, expressing concerns about how their content is used by the technology company.

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Sony Music Group is preparing to send hundreds of letters to AI developers and music streaming services, including OpenAI and Google, warning them not to use its artists’ music to train generative AI tools without permission. Actors and writers have also voiced concerns about the impact of AI on their careers.

Talent agencies are taking proactive measures to protect their clients against unauthorized use of their likeness and voice. Creative Artists Agency, based in Century City, is assisting clients through the Vault, which creates a digital version of clients by scanning their bodies and recording their movements and voices to guard against copyright infringement.

Johansson is a client of CAA, which declined to comment on the matter.

OpenAI explained that the voices for ChatGPT — named Breeze, Cove, Ember, Juniper, and Sky — were selected from voice actors who underwent an audition process. Over 400 people applied. The company was looking for “a timeless voice” and “an approachable voice that inspires trust.”

The chosen actors recorded their voices in San Francisco in June and July of 2023, and their voices were added to the system in September of that year, according to the company. The actors were paid “above top-of-market rates” and were fully informed about the project’s intentions and scope.

“To maintain their privacy, we cannot disclose the names of our voice talents,” OpenAI stated.

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