Issue between Scarlett Johansson and OpenAI over AI voice is heating up

Scarlett Johansson

This article was last updated on May 21, 2024

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Issue between Scarlett Johansson and OpenAI over AI voice is heating up

It turns out that there is more going on between OpenAI and Scarlett Johansson than the company yesterday made it appear. The actress is “shocked and angry” about the tech company’s actions, she wrote in an email declaration which is owned by various American media.

The use of Johansson’s voice, or one that was at least very similar, would only have been suspended due to legal pressure from the actress herself. This places communication from OpenAI in a different light.

Company stated yesterday precisely that the intention was not to make the AI ​​voice resemble the actress.

In a statement issued by a journalist from public radio broadcaster NPR was shared on X, Johansson says he was approached by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman in September. He wanted to hire her to be the voice of ChatGPT.

“He told me that by using my voice I could bridge the gap between tech companies and creatives. And help consumers get comfortable with the big change between humans and AI. He thought my voice would be reassuring to people.”

Johansson writes that she rejected this offer, partly for “personal reasons”. When she heard the demo during OpenAI’s presentation last week, she says she was “shocked and angry” and in disbelief that “Mr. Altman would use a voice so very similar to mine.”

She also points to a tweet from him that, according to her, suggests that copying her voice was the intention. Altman tweeted just after the presentation last week the word: “her”. A reference, she writes, to the film of the same name in which she plays an AI voice who develops a relationship with the protagonist.

The statement also states that just before the presentation, Altman contacted her again, asking her to reconsider his request. Before the conversation could take place, the demo had already gone live.

Johansson then sought legal help. Two letters were sent to the company asking for an explanation of what exactly happened. This then led to the blog post and the pausing of AI voice ‘Sky’.


Altman repeats to NBC News that the voice was not intended to resemble Johansson’s and was chosen before contact was made. “Out of respect for Ms. Johansson, we have paused the use of voice. We apologize to Ms. Johansson for not communicating better.”

An explanation that does not seem very credible with the actress’s statement.

This is all spicy for OpenAI. The company has long been accused of not taking copyright seriously. So has The New York Times filed a lawsuit, in which the AI ​​company, along with Microsoft, is accused of using items without permission to train AI systems.

In addition, it will not improve the relationship between the tech giant and the creative sector. They will see this as proof that OpenAI cares little about their rights.

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