ChatGPT Has A Scarlett Johansson Problem: 'Shocked, Angered And In Disbelief'


Celebrities sell. And because celebrities know that they are valuable commodities, they have the right to accept, or decline people who piggyback their fame for commercial use.

The AI was dull, boring, and barely made ripples outside its own industry. But since OpenAI introduced ChatGPT, things changed.

Pretty much all tech companies, large and small, began the arms race to either partner or rival the generative AI.

To keep on distinguishing itself from rivals, OpenAI has to move fast, and has introduced GPT-4o, which it said, is its "new flagship model that can reason across audio, vision, and text in real time."

The AI is more than just that, because it's also enhanced with a human voice that is so alluring and attractive, and one of which, sounded very much like actress Scarlett Johansson.

Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson.

It all began when Johansson was asked by CEO Sam Altman himself.

The Black Widow star said that the OpenAI boss once asked her to be the voice behind ChatGPT.

“Last September, I received an offer from Sam Altman, who wanted to hire me to voice the current ChatGPT 4.0 system,” Johansson wrote.

At the time, Altman said how he admires Johansson’s work, and said that Her is his favorite film.

Johansson said that Altman thought her voice would be "comforting to people."

Even in public, he posted the word “her,” seemingly in reference Johansson's film, and to the voice demo the company presented.

Johansson didn't want OpenAI to use her voice.

"After much consideration and for personal reasons, I declined the offer," she said.

OpenAI then issued a casting for a secret project to enhance its popular ChatGPT with a human voice.

Its request was, the voice actors and actresses have to sound between 25 and 45 years old, and that their voice should be “warm, engaging [and] charismatic.”

The one thing the AI company did not request, according to interviews with some people involved with the process, is having a clone of actress Scarlett Johansson.

Two weeks before launching GPT-4o, Altman contacted Johansson agency, asking Johansson to reconsider.

And when she declined again, she said that the company went ahead and created a voice that sounded just like her.

"Nine months later, my friends, family and the general public all noted how much the newest system named 'Sky' sounded like me," she continued.

Because of this, Johansson is "forced to hire legal counsel," who has sent letters to OpenAI inquiring how the soundalike ChatGPT voice, known as Sky, was made.

Johansson alleged that OpenAI had copied her voice after she refused a request by Altman to license it.

She said that she was "shocked, angered and in disbelief" over how "eerily similar" the voice of Sky sounded to herself.

Read: The Start Of The ‘Her’ Era, Is When AI Sounds Disarmingly Lifelike, And Can Laugh And Flirt

Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson's complete statement on the OpenAI situation.

Johansson and other celebrities can invoke right to publicity laws, which protect identifying features of a person from being used without their permission. “If you misappropriate someone’s name, likeness, or voice, you could be violating their right to publicity,” Albers says.

Celebrities have previously won cases over similar-sounding voices in commercials. But to win these cases, the celebrities generally had to prove that their voice or other identifying features are unregistered trademarks and that, by imitating them, consumers could connect them to the product being sold, even if they’re not involved.

What this means, the voice must be "distinctive"

In this case, Sky's voice is indeed Scarlett Johansson, and this is made easier because of the fact that she played the role of an AI assistant in the Oscar-winning film.

Even though OpenAI didn’t mention Johansson by her name, consumers pointed out the extreme similarities.

In California, where OpenAI is headquartered, nothing prevents anyone from using digital replicas like AI-generated voices to mimic others. But California protects a living person’s voice from being used in commercial activities without consent.

It states that using a person’s “identity,” whether a voice, face, or name, could violate these protections.

In the film Her, Scarlett Johansson's plays the role of Samantha, an AI that made Theodore Twombly, played by Joaquin Phoenix, develop an affection.

Responding to the allegation, OpenAI reportedly said that it hired different actress to provide the voice for Sky, speaking in their normal speaking voice.

However, the company declined to share the actress' name, citing privacy concerns.

Johansson has not sued OpenAI, but because she has lawyered up, "OpenAI reluctantly agreed to take down the 'Sky' voice," Johansson said.

According to OpenAI, the company does this in order to address questions around "how we chose the voices in ChatGPT."

"We’ve been in conversations with ScarJo’s team because there seems to be some confusion. We want to take the feedback seriously and hear out the concerns," said Joanne Jang, model behavior lead at OpenAI.

Altman and OpenAI maintained that the voice of Sky "is not Scarlett Johansson’s.”

"We are sorry to Ms. Johansson that we didn’t communicate better."