Scarlett Johansson Threatens Legal Action Against OpenAI Over Synthetic Voice Fight 

 May 26, 2024

By  Joe Habscheid

Summary: Scarlett Johansson is considering legal action against OpenAI after the company showcased a synthetic voice for ChatGPT that she claims sounds “eerily similar” to her own voice. OpenAI maintains the voice belongs to a different actress, but the incident raises significant questions about right of publicity laws and impersonation boundaries.

Johansson’s Allegations Against OpenAI

Scarlett Johansson recently expressed shock and disbelief upon hearing the new expressive voice for ChatGPT, named “Sky.” She claims the voice mirrors her own and closely resembles Samantha, the AI assistant she voiced in the 2013 film “Her.” This similarity has pushed her to hire legal counsel to seek answers from OpenAI.

OpenAI’s Defense

OpenAI asserts that the voice is not an imitation and credits a different professional actress. They acknowledge approaching Johansson last year to voice ChatGPT, an offer she declined. Interestingly, a one-word social media post from OpenAI’s CEO Sam Altman on the demo day is perceived as referencing Johansson’s role in “Her,” further entwining her with the new voice.

Legal Perspectives on Right of Publicity

Intellectual property experts believe Johansson’s strongest argument lies within right of publicity laws. These laws protect against unauthorized use of an individual’s name or distinctive characteristics. A precedent is Bette Midler’s 1980s case against an ad agency for hiring a soundalike to mimic her voice, which she won.

Opinions on Likelihood of Johansson’s Success

Opinions among lawyers vary. Some are skeptical, doubting that OpenAI’s use amounts to illegal impersonation. Others believe Johansson has a compelling case, especially given OpenAI’s previous offer and circumstantial evidence suggesting a connection to her role. The final verdict may largely rest on a jury’s interpretation of these nuances.

Ultimately, Scarlett Johansson’s claim against OpenAI not only brings to light ongoing issues about voice imitation and right of publicity but also highlights the complex intersections between technology, entertainment, and legal protections.

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Featured Image courtesy of Unsplash and Cord Allman (EQUftMDNz_Q)

Joe Habscheid

Joe Habscheid is the founder of midmichiganai.com. A trilingual speaker fluent in Luxemburgese, German, and English, he grew up in Germany near Luxembourg. After obtaining a Master's in Physics in Germany, he moved to the U.S. and built a successful electronics manufacturing office. With an MBA and over 20 years of expertise transforming several small businesses into multi-seven-figure successes, Joe believes in using time wisely. His approach to consulting helps clients increase revenue and execute growth strategies. Joe's writings offer valuable insights into AI, marketing, politics, and general interests.

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