Scarlett Johansson: OpenAI Used My Voice Without Consent

Scarlett Johansson Accuses OpenAI for non-consensual Voice usage

May 21, 2024 – In a dramatic turn of events, Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson has accused OpenAI of using her voice without permission for their ChatGPT AI assistant, named “Sky.” The controversy has sparked a heated debate over the ethical implications of AI voice technology and the protection of individual likenesses.

Scarlett Johansson, known for her iconic roles in films like “Her” and “Black Widow,” has expressed her shock and anger over the striking resemblance between her voice and the AI voice used by OpenAI. Johansson claims that despite declining multiple offers from OpenAI to license her voice, the company proceeded to use a voice that closely mimics hers.

In a statement to USA TODAY, Scarlett Johansson revealed that OpenAI CEO Sam Altman had approached her twice within the past year, requesting her to lend her voice to their AI system. She declined both offers, citing personal reasons. However, Johansson was taken aback when she heard the demo of ChatGPT's “Sky” voice, which she described as “eerily similar” to her own.

OpenAI has temporarily suspended the use of the “Sky” voice following the backlash. The company maintains that the voice was not intended to imitate Johansson's and was performed by a different professional actress. In a blog post, OpenAI stated, “We believe that AI voices should not deliberately mimic a celebrity's distinctive voice. Sky's voice is not an imitation of Scarlett Johansson“.

The company has also been in contact with Johansson's representatives to address the concerns and clarify the confusion. Joanne Jang, OpenAI's model behavior lead, mentioned that the perceived similarities might be due to the scarcity of compelling female voice assistants in the market.

Scarlett Johansson has retained legal counsel and is considering legal action against OpenAI. Her lawyers have demanded transparency regarding the process used to create the “Sky” voice and have requested that OpenAI cease using the voice immediately. Johansson's legal team sent two letters to Altman and OpenAI, detailing their infringement and requesting information on the exact process by which they created the “Sky” voice.

OpenAI's new voice capability is powered by a text-to-speech model capable of generating human-like audio from just text and a few seconds of sample speech. The company collaborated with professional voice actors to create five distinct voices for ChatGPT: Breeze, Cove, Ember, Juniper, and Sky. These voices were recorded in San Francisco last summer.

The “Sky” voice gained significant attention for its expressiveness and human-like qualities, which some users found flirtatious and engaging. This led to comparisons with Johansson's voice in the 2013 film “Her,” where she voiced an AI assistant named Samantha.

The controversy has ignited a public debate over the ethical use of AI voice technology. Many users on social media platforms like Reddit have pointed out the uncanny resemblance between “Sky” and Johansson's voice, with some speculating that the similarity was intentional. The issue has also raised questions about the protection of individual likenesses and the potential for misuse of AI technology.

The incident comes at a time when the AI industry is rapidly evolving, with companies like Google and Microsoft also developing advanced AI voice assistants. Google's Project Astra, unveiled during its annual developer conference, features a female voice assistant that is less quippy and playful compared to OpenAI's “Sky”.

Experts believe that the increasing adoption of AI voice assistants capable of expressing human-like personalities could significantly impact society. Visar Berisha, an Arizona State University professor specializing in AI speech technology, noted that voice interactions allow AI to express subtleties and emotions, potentially fostering deeper connections between users and machines.

AI Ethics Specialist

The controversy surrounding Scarlett Johansson and OpenAI's “Sky” voice highlights the need for clear ethical guidelines and regulations in the AI industry. As AI technology continues to advance, it is crucial to address the ethical implications and ensure that individual rights are protected. Johansson's stand against OpenAI represents the concerns of many creatives grappling with the erosion of their work's value due to automated systems.

This evolving story underscores the importance of transparency and ethical considerations in the development and deployment of AI technologies. As the debate continues, it remains to be seen how OpenAI and other tech giants will navigate the complex landscape of AI voice technology and its impact on society.

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