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regular-article-logo Sunday, 23 June 2024

Scarlett Johansson says OpenAI asked to use her voice. Twice.

Despite those refusals, the actress said, OpenAI used a voice that sounded 'eerily similar to mine'. She has hired a lawyer and asked OpenAI to stop using a voice it called 'Sky'

Tripp Mickle San Francisco Published 21.05.24, 11:53 AM
FILE — Actress Scarlett Johansson reacts to her husband Colin Jost’s joke at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner at Washington Hilton in Washington, on April 27, 2024. Days before OpenAI demonstrated its new, flirty voice assistant last week, the actress Scarlett Johansson said, Sam Altman, the company’s chief executive, called her agent and asked that she consider licensing her voice for a virtual assistant. It was his second request to the actress in the past year, Johannson said in a statement on Monday, May 20, 2024.

FILE — Actress Scarlett Johansson reacts to her husband Colin Jost’s joke at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner at Washington Hilton in Washington, on April 27, 2024. Days before OpenAI demonstrated its new, flirty voice assistant last week, the actress Scarlett Johansson said, Sam Altman, the company’s chief executive, called her agent and asked that she consider licensing her voice for a virtual assistant. It was his second request to the actress in the past year, Johannson said in a statement on Monday, May 20, 2024. (Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times)

Days before OpenAI demonstrated its new, flirty voice assistant last week, actress Scarlett Johansson said, Sam Altman, the company’s CEO, called her agent and asked that she consider licensing her voice for a virtual assistant.

It was his second request to the actress in the past year, Johannson said in a statement Monday, adding that the reply both times was no.

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Despite those refusals, Johansson said, OpenAI used a voice that sounded “eerily similar to mine.” She has hired a lawyer and asked OpenAI to stop using a voice it called “Sky.”

OpenAI suspended its release of “Sky” over the weekend. The company said in a blog post Sunday that “AI voices 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.”

In the 2013 movie “Her,” a lonely introvert named Theodore, played by Joaquin Phoenix, is seduced by a virtual assistant named Samantha, voiced by Johansson. Last week, Altman appeared to nod to the similarity in a post on social network X with one word: “her.”

OpenAI said it couldn’t share the names of its voice professionals for privacy reasons. It said it had worked with unidentified directors and producers to develop five voices for its product: Breeze, Cove, Ember, Juniper and Sky. The voices were recorded last summer in San Francisco.

Johansson’s statement was reported earlier by NPR’s Bobby Allyn.

Johansson is the latest high-profile person to criticize OpenAI for using creative work without permission. Over the past year, OpenAI has been sued for copyright violations by authors, actors and newspapers, including the Authors Guild of America and The New York Times, which sued OpenAI and its partner, Microsoft.

The New York Times News Service

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