Scarlett Johansson takes on OpenAI over chatbot voice


Actress Scarlett Johansson is threatening Sam Altman and his company OpenAI with legal action, alleging they copied her voice for ChatGPT without her permission, according to USA Today.

Johansson, who was the voice of the artificial intelligence assistant in the 2013 science fiction movie “Her,” said ChatGPT’s “Sky” voice is so eerily similar to hers that her closest friends could not tell the difference.

In a statement provided to USA TODAY, Johansson said Altman asked her to be the voice of his AI system and, when she turned him down, he copied her voice anyway.

Altman even made another effort to recruit Johansson, she said.

“Two days before the ChatGPT 4.0 demo was released, Mr. Altman contacted my agent, asking me to reconsider,” she wrote. “Before we could connect, the system was out there.”

Altman denied that the voice is Johansson's. OpenAI said it supports stronger protections against deepfakes and works to prevent its synthetic voices from copying those of real people.

"The voice of Sky is not Scarlett Johansson's, and it was never intended to resemble hers," Altman said in a statement late Monday. "We cast the voice actor behind Sky’s voice before any outreach to Ms. Johansson. Out of respect for Ms. Johansson, we have paused using Sky’s voice in our products. We are sorry to Ms. Johansson that we didn’t communicate better."

When OpenAI released a demo of its latest ChatGPT model last week, it included “Voice Mode,” with an emotive AI answering questions. One of those voices was "Sky."

“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 said. "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.”

OpenAI said it is “pausing” the use of the Sky voice to address questions about how it chose the ChatGPT voices.

A Sunday blog post from the artificial intelligence company says Sky’s voice “is not an imitation of Scarlett Johansson but belongs to a different professional actress using her own natural speaking voice,” and that the company "carefully selected" each of the voices over the course of a five-month process.

Johansson said her legal counsel wrote two letters to Altman and OpenAI asking them to "detail the exact process by which they created the 'Sky' voice.

"Consequently, OpenAI reluctantly agreed to take down the 'Sky' voice," she said.