Helena Lyng Blak
3 weeks ago

“I Was Shocked”: Scarlett Johansson Confronts OpenAI Over ChatGPT Voice

Scarlett Johansson demands answers from OpenAI about a voice in ChatGPT that she claims sounds strikingly similar to her own.
November 18, 2021 in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California, United States. — Photo by imagepressagency
November 18, 2021 in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California, United States. — Photo by imagepressagency

On Monday, May 20, 2024, Scarlett Johansson asked OpenAI to detail the exact process of the creation of one of its voices, explaining that it sounds “eerily similar” to the American actress’s own voice. 

In September 2023, OpenAI, the company behind the immensely popular artificially generated chatbot ChatGPT, introduced “voice capabilities” to its flagship service, allowing users to interact with the bot through five different voices. 

But one of these voices, ‘Sky,’ sounded familiar to a lot of users as it—allegedly— resembled Scarlett Johansson.

And apparently, that may not have been entirely coincidental. 

According to a statement provided by Johansson’s publicist to NPR, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman contacted Johansson in September to hire her to voice ChatGPT-4o. After consideration, Johansson allegedly declined Altman’s offer, and for a while, the matter was settled.

However, once Johansson heard the voice of ‘Sky,’ she says that she was “shocked, angered and in disbelief” that Altman would “pursue a voice that sounded so eerily similar to mine that my closest friends and news outlets could not tell the difference.”

OpenAI has denied Johansson’s allegations, writing in a blog that, 

“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.”

However, as Johansson notes in her statement, Altman himself seems to have encouraged comparisons between ChatGPT-4o’s voice capabilities and Scarlett Johansson. On May 13, the day of ChatGPT-4o’s announcement, Altman simply tweeted “her,” ostensibly referencing the movie ‘Her’ from 2013, wherein Scarlett Johansson voices an artificially intelligent virtual assistant.

Before making her statement, Johansson had hired legal counsel who contacted Altman, asking to “detail the exact process by which they created the ‘Sky’ voice”, which ultimately led to OpenAI “reluctantly” agreeing to take down the voice. 

Johansson concluded her statement, saying, 

“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.”

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