OpenAI Suspends ChatGPT Voice Amid Scarlett Johansson's Legal Queries

 May 21, 2024

The voice technology behind OpenAI's ChatGPT has recently come under intense scrutiny.

OpenAI has paused its ChatGPT voice feature after accusations that it mimicked Scarlett Johansson's voice, which is notably similar to her role in the 2013 film 'Her.'

The resemblance between Scarlett Johansson's voice and that of Sky, a voice model used in OpenAI’s recent product updates, was striking.

According to Fox Business, Johansson, who previously voiced a similar artificial intelligence character in the 2013 film "Her," expressed her dismay and has taken legal action after discovering the similarity.

Unexpected Echoes: Johansson's Reaction to the AI Voice

Friends of Johansson and the public alike noted the uncanny resemblance between her voice and that of Sky, sparking widespread discussion and media speculation. In response, Johansson engaged her legal team, who sent two separate demands to OpenAI requesting clarity on the origins of Sky's voice.

Here's how Scarlett Johansson expressed her reaction:

Last September, I received an offer from Sam Altman... I declined the offer... When I heard the released demo, I was shocked, angered, and in disbelief... 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.

The tension escalated quickly after Johansson's team reached out to OpenAI. OpenAI, relatively quick to react, announced a pause on using Sky’s voice across their applications.

This decision was communicated by OpenAI's CEO, Sam Altman, who stated their intention was never to mimic Johansson’s voice knowingly and expressed regret over the mishap.

Behind the Scenes: The Offering and the Denial

The groundwork for this controversy was laid in September when Altman offered Johansson the role of voicing ChatGPT 4.0, a proposal she declined. Subsequently, Altman made another attempt to involve Johansson just two days before the public reveal of ChatGPT 4.0, yet without success.

Despite her refusal, OpenAI released Sky’s voice shortly after this interaction. It’s reported that OpenAI had already chosen the voice actor for Sky before reconnecting with Johansson’s team.

OpenAI, through the voice of its CEO, stated their respect for Johansson led to the temporary removal of Sky's voice:

The voice of Sky is not Scarlett Johansson's, and it was never intended to resemble hers. 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.

Legal and Ethical Implications in Voice Technology

The incident involving the alleged replication of Scarlett Johansson's voice by OpenAI raises significant ethical and legal questions about the use of voice replication technology in AI. Johansson’s attorney has emphasized the gravity of the situation and is considering all legal options to address the infringement, highlighting the need for ongoing adjustments in legal frameworks to keep pace with technological advancements.

In conclusion, Scarlett Johansson's reaction to the unauthorized use of her voice likeness in OpenAI's ChatGPT has raised salient discussions around privacy, consent, and the ethical use of technology. Her legal pursuits and OpenAI's subsequent suspension of the voice feature underscore the evolving challenges and responsibilities facing tech entities in the digital age. As this situation unfolds, it will likely set a precedent for how voice likeness is treated legally and morally in the AI domain.

About Victor Winston

Victor is a freelance writer and researcher who focuses on national politics, geopolitics, and economics.

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