Scarlett Johansson clashes with OpenAI over A.I. voice similarity, accuses CEO Sam Altman of ignoring her refusal

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In a curious twist reminiscent of Hollywood drama, Scarlett Johansson has found herself at the center of a tech-world controversy, accusing OpenAI CEO Sam Altman of using a voice eerily similar to hers for their latest AI voice software, despite her explicit refusal.

The brouhaha erupted when OpenAI’s ChatGPT-4o launched its new voice assistant, dubbed “Sky,” which many noted bore an uncanny resemblance to Johansson’s iconic voice from the film “Her.” This led to widespread speculation and a flurry of tweets, with Johansson stepping into the spotlight to clarify the situation.

“Sam Altman approached me last September, and again just before the announcement of ChatGPT-4o on May 13,” Johansson stated. “I declined both times. Imagine my surprise when ‘Sky’ turned out to sound just like me. Friends, family, and the public all pointed out the similarity.”

Altman, in a tweet that seemed more mysterious than clarifying, simply wrote “her” on the day of the launch, further fueling the fire. However, he denied any intentional mimicry.

“The voice of Sky is not Scarlett Johansson’s, nor was it ever intended to be,” Altman asserted. “We cast the voice actor behind Sky long before reaching out to Ms. Johansson. We’ve now paused using Sky’s voice out of respect and regret for any miscommunication.”

Johansson, unamused and adamant, has hired legal counsel and expressed her disbelief and frustration publicly. “The demo was a shock. It was angering. It was unbelievable that Mr. Altman would proceed with a voice so similar to mine,” she said. “And then to tweet ‘her’… it felt deliberate.”

OpenAI, meanwhile, took to social media and their blog to address the situation, insisting that Sky’s voice belongs to a different professional actress. “Sky’s voice is not an imitation of Scarlett Johansson. It’s someone else’s natural voice. We respect our voice talents’ privacy,” the company stated.

Johansson has penned letters to Altman and OpenAI, seeking transparency on how Sky’s voice was developed. “In an era where deepfakes are a real concern, and our identities are at risk, clarity is essential,” she emphasized. “I hope for a resolution that brings transparency and new legislation to protect individual rights.”

As the AI and Hollywood worlds collide, one thing is clear: this real-life saga is far from over.

(Source: NPR | NYT | WSJ)

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