Sam Altman's “Her” tweet goes viral as Scarlett Johansson calls out OpenAI over unauthorized use of her voice

Clooney Foundation For Justice
Scarlett Johansson at the Clooney Foundation For Justice's "The Albies." (Image via Getty/ Cindy Ord)

On Monday, May 20, actress Scarlett Johansson issued a statement via her lawyers and alleged that OpenAI used her voice without permission to develop an AI personal assistant dubbed ‘Sky.’ She claimed that OpenAI CEO Sam Altman approached her in September 2023 to “hire” her as the voice of the “current ChatGPT 4.0 system.”

However, “after much consideration and personal reasons,” the actress declined the offer. But now, after the launch of ‘Sky,’ Johansson was “shocked, angered, and in disbelief” that a voice similar to hers was used without any authorization.

“Mr. Altman even 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,” Johansson added.

In the wake of her claim, Sam Altman’s “Her” tweet from May 13 has now gone viral.

Scarlett Johansson’s legal team has sent two letters to OpenAI demanding clarification

Earlier this month, OpenAI launched its latest AI personal assistant ‘Sky’; and a live demonstration of its voice was held last week. Following this, many pointed out that the voice of ‘Sky’ sounded like Scarlett Johansson’s in the 2013 romantic sci-fi film Her.

The speculation garnered traction when OpenAI CEO Sam Altman posted the word “Her” on X. On Monday, Scarlett Johansson’s statement confirmed the same, while also slamming the company and its CEO for unauthorized use of her voice.

She began by explaining how, last September, Sam Altman contacted her with an offer to hire her to voice its 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 to feel comfortable with the seismic shift concerning humans and AI. He said he felt that my voice would be comforting to people,” the Jojo Rabbit star stated.

The 39-year-old actress explained that she declined the offer after much consideration, citing personal reasons. However, nine months later, her family, friends, and fans informed her “how much the newest system named ‘Sky’ sounded like me.”

“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,” she added.

Scarlett Johansson continued by pointing out Altman’s tweet, "Her,” and how it hinted that the “similarity was intentional.” She mentioned how a couple of days before the launch of the ChatGPT 4.0 demo, the OpenAI CEO reapproached her agent, asking her to “reconsider.”

However, before they could settle on a mutual decision, “the system was out there.” The Black Widow star added:

“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.”

She further mentioned how, in the wake of the letters, “OpenAI reluctantly agreed to take down” the voice. Scarlett Johansson wrapped up her statement by demanding “absolute clarity” in the matter, as the times were uncertain, with deepfakes trying to steal the “likeness,” “work,” and “identities” of public figures such as herself.

“I look forward to resolution in the form of transparency and the passage of appropriate legislation to help ensure that individual rights are protected, she concluded.”

In the wake of Scarlett Johansson’s statement, OpenAI took to X to explain why it decided to “pause” the use of ‘Sky’ and planned on addressing the questions. It also carried a link titled, “How the voices for ChatGPT were chosen.”

Meanwhile, as per NPR, a company’s blog post claimed that the voice of ‘Sky’ was that of a “different professional actress,” whose identity was protected to maintain her privacy, and not an “imitation” of Scarlett Johansson.

In this regard, Sam Altman’s spokesperson sent a written statement to NBC News, which stated that the voice of ‘Sky’ is not that of the North Star actress, was “never intended to resemble hers,” and was reportedly chosen before they reached out to Johansson. He also apologized for being unable to "communicate better."

Edited by Babylona Bora
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