Scarlett Johansson accuses OpenAI of making ChatGPT voice similar to her: Shocked and in disbelief


PTI, May 21, 2024, 4:40 PM IST

Credit: GabboT via Wikimedia Commons

Los Angeles: Hollywood actor Scarlett Johansson has accused OpenAI of ripping off her voice for the new ChatGPT AI named “Sky”, even though she had declined the company’s offer.

The artificial intelligence company on Monday announced that it has decided to ”pause” the Sky feature after questions were raised over the voice feature.

”We’ve heard questions about how we chose the voices in ChatGPT, especially Sky. We are working to pause the use of Sky while we address them,” the company posted on its official X page.

In a statement to American news outlet Variety, Johansson said she was contacted by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman in September 2023 about the company hiring her to provide the voice for ChatGPT 4.0 but she declined the offer for “personal reasons”.

”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,” Johansson said.

“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,” she added.

On Monday, OpenAI also posted a blog post in which the company said that Sky’s voice was not an imitation of Johansson, but belonged to a different professional actress.

”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.

”To protect their privacy, we cannot share the names of our voice talents,” the company posted.

Johansson, 39, also revealed that Altman contacted her agent two days prior to the release of ChatGPT 4.0 demo and urged her to reconsider the decision.

”Two days before the 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,” she said in the statement.

Johansson also called for a legislation that would protect individuals from having their name, image or likeness misappropriated. ”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,” she wrote.

When asked for a comment over the matter, Altman, in another statement, reiterated that the voice used by the company for Sky belonged to a different actor and had nothing to do with Johansson.

”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 read.

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