OpenAI docs show Scarlett Johansson’s voice wasn’t copied intentionally for ChatGPT

Scarlett Johansson Lucy Trailer Universal Pictures

TL;DR

  • OpenAI has shared documents and provided interviews showing that it did not intentionally copy Scarlett Johansson’s voice for ChatGPT’s “Sky”.
  • An actress was hired months before to voice Sky before OpenAI CEO Sam Altman approached Johansson.
  • Lawyers believe Johansson might still have a case against OpenAI.

After Scarlett Johansson called out OpenAI for copying her voice for ChatGPT‘s “Sky” avatar, internal company documents shared with The Washington Post suggest that the AI startup did not intentionally recreate the actor’s voice.

Reportedly, a different actress was hired to voice ChatGPT’s Sky. The documents also show that the voiceover actress was hired months before Sam Altman approached Johansson to be one of the voices of ChatGPT. Interviews with multiple people involved in Sky’s voice creation show that the company did not request someone to close Johansson’s voice.

The flier seeking artists for ChatGPT’s human voice had other requests, including that the actor be non-union, between 25 and 45 years of age, and have a “warm, engaging, and charismatic” voice.

The agent of the actress who finally voiced ChatGPT’s Sky confirmed to The Washington Post that neither Johansson nor the movie “Her” were ever mentioned by OpenAI.

Could Scarlett Johansson still sue OpenAI?

Lawyers are of the opinion that Johansson might still have a case against OpenAI because the Sky ChatGPT voice resembles her voice so much, and Altman approached her days before the voice was released. Altman also referred to the voice as “Her” publicly, further indicating that it was copied from the AI character Johansson voiced in the Joaquin Phoenix movie.

“The Ninth Circuit held that a celebrity with a distinctive voice could recover against someone who used a voice impersonator to create the impression that the celebrity had endorsed the product or was speaking in the advertisement,” Christian Mammen, a partner at Womble Bond Dickinson who specializes in intellectual property law told The Verge.

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Mammen pointed out that celebrities like Bette Midler, Tom Waits, and others have previously won cases where voices sounding similar to theirs were used in commercials without their consent.

That said, a successful lawsuit will also depend on the state where it’s filed. Different states in the US have different right-to-publicity laws. For instance, California, where OpenAI operates, does not have laws against digital or AI voice replicas. However, the state requires a living person’s consent for their voice to be used in commercial activities.

Johansson has not taken any legal steps against OpenAI as of writing this article.

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