Scarlett Johansson Shocked and Angry Over OpenAI Voice That Sounds Like ‘Her’

A ChatGPT voice that sounds a lot like Scarlett Johansson‘s voice is no longer on OpenAI, but the “Her” star says there’s a lot more behind the story.

For one thing, she maintains that OpenAI founder Sam Altman was advised of the actor’s objections to the voice feature but still pushed forward with the update.

Hours after OpenAI dropped the interactive “Sky” voice, one of five in its ChatGPT update, Johansson put out a statement in her own voice, literally and figuratively. It details her account of events, in which Altman sought permission to use her tones, got rejected, but moved ahead anyway – at least until lawyers were called in.

Here is Johansson’s full statement:

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.

Sources with knowledge of the situation separately confirmed to Deadline the Black Widow actor’s account of events.

PREVIOUSLY: OpenAI is pulling an artificial intelligence voice that users compared with Scarlett Johansson’s, but the company insists it is “not an imitation” and that it “supports the creative community.”

The company detailed its rationale in a blog post Monday morning, saying the voice for “Sky,” one of five interactive voices introduced last fall, “sampled” that of a real voice actor. The company has not disclosed the identities of the actors whose voices served as the foundation for the ChatGPT features, citing privacy considerations.

“We support the creative community and worked closely with the voice acting industry to ensure we took the right steps to cast ChatGPT’s voices,” the company wrote. “Each actor receives compensation above top-of-market rates, and this will continue for as long as their voices are used in our products.”

AI voices, OpenAI asserted, “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.”

Saturday Night Live worked in a riff on the controversy during “Weekend Update,” with Johansson’s husband, Colin Jost, joking about comparisons between the voice-activated ChatGPT and the film “Her.” In the 2013 film, Johansson voiced the central, if technically inanimate, character of a virtual assistant with which Joaquin Phoenix’s character becomes enamored.

“I’ve never bothered to watch because without that body, what’s the point of listening?” Jost cracked.

The flap is anything but a laughing matter to Hollywood’s labor unions, of course. The WGA and SAG-AFTRA made AI key elements of their landmark 2023 strikes and the guilds continue to closely monitor and weigh in on developments on the technology frontier.

Founded in 2015 as a non-profit, OpenAI has created for-profit subsidiaries designed as vehicles for Microsoft’s investment in the firm. Microsoft has reportedly committed a total of $13 billion to OpenAI, including $10 billion in funding last year.

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