Hollywood Actress, Scarlett Johannsson, “angered” at OpenAI’s Alleged Voice Imitation Without Consent

21st May 2024

Hollywood actress and Oscar nominee, Scarlett Johannsson, has lamented how her voice was allegedly used without her consent by tech giant OpenAI.

The actress noted that she was “shocked, angered and in disbelief” that the company’s Chief Executive Officer, Sam Altman, would go to such length to have her voice used in the current ChatGPT 4.0 system.

According to Sky News on Tuesday, the actress explained how she had turned down Altman’s request for personal reasons, only to find out that the voice “sounded so eerily similar to mine.”

In a 2013 romantic sci-fi movie titled, ‘Her,’ Johannsson’s voice was used to imitate an AI female voice called ‘Samantha,’ who formed an intimate relationship with a human.

The actress, in her statement, said, “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 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.”

The actress expressed her frustration, saying, “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,” adding that Altman had “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.”

The 39-year-old actress said that before the release of the ChatGPT 4.0 demo, the OpenAI boss “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 recent times, tech users have begun using the AI model to imitate people’s voices and pictures without prior consent in most cases, a situation which negates the ethical standards of AI use.

“In a time when we are all grappling with deepfakes and the protection of our 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,” Johannsson wrote.

However, OpenAI, in a tweet on Monday, stated that it had “paused” the use of Sky while it addresses the process with which it used to create the AI voice.

“We’ve heard questions about how we chose the voices in ChatGPT, especially Sky. We are working to pause the use of Sky while we address them,” it stated.

The company, in a statement titled, ‘How the voices for ChatGPT were chosen,’ on Sunday, May 19, 2024, reads partly, “Each of the voices—Breeze, Cove, Ember, Juniper and Sky—are sampled from voice actors we partnered with to create them.”

Sky News reports that in 2023, the New York Times “sued OpenAI over allegations it, and its biggest investor Microsoft, unlawfully used the newspaper’s articles to train and create ChatGPT.”