OpenAI in legal trouble: Will Scarlett Johansson get her voice back?

Scarlett Johansson is Sky

Scarlett Johansson
Photo: Midjourney

OpenAI may face legal consequences for using Scarlett Johansson's voice for its AI assistant called Sky. Although OpenAI claims the similarity was not intentional, the case could cause serious problems for the company. But it is absolutely clear to all of us that OpenAI has created a voice that is remarkably similar to the one from the movie Her. But why?!

Imagine trying out a new AI assistant and feeling like it's speaking with the voice of a celebrity actress Scarlett Johansson. That's what happened when OpenAI rolled out updates to its ChatGPT, which included Sky's voice feature that bore a striking resemblance to Johansson's. This sparked a flurry of comments and a potential legal battle.

When it comes to the privacy rights and use of a celebrity's likeness, California law spells out exactly how they can protect themselves from unauthorized use of their name, likeness, or voice. Purvi Patel Albers, a partner at the Haynes Boone law firm, explained that celebrities have a solid basis for suing in such cases.

"If someone uses your name, likeness or voice without permission, it can be a violation of your right to privacy," says Albers. Past cases such as Bette Midler and Tom Waits' lawsuits, where both won over the use of their voices in commercials, have important implications for AI voice clones.

Scarlett Johansson should prove that her voice is recognizable and that consumers can think she is included in the product even if she is not. This is especially relevant for someone who played the AI assistant in the Oscar-winning film “Her”.

Problems with the lack of federal right-to-privacy laws

Legal complications arise from the lack of a single federal law on the right to privacy. Every state in the US has its own regulations, but California is among the most protective. While California protects an individual's voice from unauthorized commercial use, the issue of digital replicas remains a gray area. But that doesn't mean OpenAI isn't in trouble.

Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, made the situation even more complicated when he tweeted the word “her” during the presentation, apparently hinting at a resemblance to Johansson's role in the film. This could further solidify public opinion that the voice was indeed impersonating Scarlett.

What's next?

Although OpenAI claims the similarity was not intentional, it has temporarily removed Sky's voice. Nevertheless, the return of a similar voice could further exacerbate the conflict. “The question we have to ask ourselves is why did OpenAI do this in the first place?” says Albers. "Johansson is known for protecting her rights, so she won't go down without a fight."

Technology is advancing, and legal systems must keep up. The case of OpenAI and Scarlett Johansson is likely to set important legal precedents for the future of AI and the use of celebrity likenesses. In the meantime, we'll be watching with interest to see how this Hollywood-tech legal battle unfolds.

With you since 2004

From 2004 we research urban trends and inform our community of followers daily about the latest in lifestyle, travel, style and products that inspire with passion. From 2023, we offer content in major global languages.