Did OpenAI Steal Scarlett Johannson’s Voice?

Did OpenAI Steal Scarlett Johannson’s Voice?

Date: May 21, 2024

OpenAI finds itself in another controversy as Scarlett Johannson accuses ChatGPT of unauthorized use of her voice.

OpenAI recently introduced voice assistants in its ChatGPT-4o version upgrade. However, the AI tech giant has removed one specific voice from its library owing to a new controversy sparked by Scarlett Johannson. Scarlett Johannson is a Hollywood celebrity who was approached by Sam Altmann for using her voice in its AI model. However, the celebrity rejected the deal as she wanted to protect her individual rights from being used publicly.

Soon after the conversation came to a dead end, ChatGPT introduced a new voice named Sky, who resembled Scarlett Johannson’s voice in the movie Her. Scarlett voiced the character of an AI assistant who was Joaquin Phoenix's lead counterpart. Sky's voice sounds almost exactly the same as hers in the movie Her. 

ChatGPT has removed the voice of concern raised by Scarlett and has also released an official statement regarding the issue: “We believe that AI voices should not deliberately mimic a celebrity’s distinctive voice—Sky’s voice is not an imitation of Scarlett Johansson but belongs to a different professional actress using her own natural speaking voice,” the company wrote in a blog post. “To protect their privacy, we cannot share the names of our voice talents.”

Here’s the video demo posted on X platform of the latest ChatGPT voice assistant, which had Scarlett Johannson’s voice.

The flirty voice and tone were so accurate to Scarlett Johannson’s voice that even her friends and family could not recognize it not to be hers. Scarlett has openly published her concern, and has also announced seeking legal counsel on the issue. 

Scarlett Johannson's full statement on the issue: “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.

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.

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.

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. 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.

Arpit Dubey

By Arpit Dubey LinkedIn Icon

Arpit is a dreamer, wanderer, and a tech nerd who loves to jot down tech musings and updates. With a logician mind, he is always chasing sunrises and tech advancements while secretly preparing for the robot uprising.

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