Scarlett Johansson lawyers up as she was ‘shocked and angered’ by OpenAI’s use of voice that sounded like her

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Scarlett Johansson’s attorneys are pressing OpenAI for transparency regarding the creation of an AI personal assistant voice that the actress claims bears an uncanny resemblance to her own.

Johansson’s legal team has sent two letters to OpenAI requesting detailed information about the process used to create the voice, which the tech company has named “Sky.”

The situation escalated after OpenAI conducted a live demonstration of the voice last week.

35th Annual American Cinematheque Awards Honoring Scarlett Johansson
35th Annual American Cinematheque Awards Honoring Scarlett Johansson held at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on November 18, 2021 in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Xavier Collin/Image Press Agency)

Observers noted striking similarities between “Sky” and Johansson’s portrayal in Spike Jonze’s 2013 romantic sci-fi film Her, where she voiced a computer operating system that becomes the object of a man’s affection.

According to a statement released this afternoon from the actress, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman himself had actually offered her the opportunity to provide her voice for the chatbot. “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,” Johansson’s statement reads. “He said he felt that my voice would be comforting to people.”

2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party
Vanity Fair Oscar Party held at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 9, 2020 in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Xavier Collin/Image Press Agency)

The actress goes on to say that she declined the offer — even though, as anyone who’s been following the rollout of ChatGPT-4o already knows, the chatbot’s ScarJo-like voice was front-and-center in the company’s marketing.

“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 wrote in the statement. Altman’s announcement of the new product was posted on X on the same day of the product demonstration and is still live. Her statement continued, “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,” Johansson wrote. “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,” she wrote.

Well, now we know why OpenAI abruptly removed the “Sky” voice option for ChatGPT, the one that sounded suspiciously like Scarlett Johansson.


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