• Saturday, June 15, 2024

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OpenAI faces backlash from Scarlett Johansson over AI voice resemblance

Johansson disclosed that she was first approached by Altman in September. (Photo credit: Getty images)

By: Vibhuti Pathak

Scarlett Johansson has voiced her outrage after OpenAI launched a chatbot with a voice closely resembling hers. Johansson disclosed 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 her role in the 2013 film Her, where she voiced an AI system named Samantha.

OpenAI announced on Monday that they would remove the voice, asserting it was never intended to mimic Johansson’s. However, Johansson accused the company and its founder, Sam Altman, of deliberately copying her voice. In a statement to the BBC, Johansson expressed her disbelief and frustration, pointing out that Altman had referenced the film Her in a tweet, insinuating the similarity was intentional.

Johansson revealed that Altman first approached her in September, suggesting her involvement could bridge the gap between technology companies and creatives, making users more comfortable with AI. She declined for personal reasons. Shortly before the chatbot’s release, Altman contacted her agent, urging her to reconsider, but she stood by her decision.

Due to this situation, Johansson has hired legal counsel and sent two legal letters to OpenAI to understand how the voice was developed. She emphasised 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. They are working to pause the use of Sky’s voice while addressing the issue publicly on X social media.

This controversy emerged just six months after actors concluded strikes demanding better pay and safeguards against AI imitating their likenesses without consent. The agreement with studios assured that AI would not replicate actors’ voices or faces without permission. Dan Stein, head of AI voice licensing company Voice-Swap, criticised OpenAI’s actions.

OpenAI has faced several legal challenges regarding its use of copyrighted content, with lawsuits from The New York Times and authors George R.R. Martin and John Grisham alleging unauthorized use of their works to train its AI systems.

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