Eat Your Heart Out Rich Little

I saw a hilarious video online the other day of Morgan Freeman purportedly narrating everyday people’s lives. While the voiceover was very good, you could definitely tell it’s an impersonation.

With Artificial Intelligence these days, however, it’s getting harder and harder to spot a fake.

Actress Scarlett Johansson voiced the title character in the film “Her,” about a man who forms a relationship with an AI virtual assistant named Samantha. As a result, according to Johansson, last September, Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, approached her about being the voice of the company’s newest AI software.

According to Johansson, Altman told her 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.”

Johansson initially declined, so Altman appealed to her again on May 11, to be the voice “Sky” for its AI software ChatGPT-4o, which it announced to the public two days later. She again turned him down. Allegedly saying to Scarlett, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn,” Altman then launched ChatGPT-4o and the voice of Sky sounded remarkably like Johansson. He even had the nerve to announce the launch by tweeting “her” on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“After much consideration and for personal reasons, I declined the offer,” Johansson said in a statement to CNBC about Saltman’s original pitch to her. “Nine months later, my friends, family and the general public all noted how much the newest system named ‘Sky’ sounded like me.”

Johansson immediately retained legal counsel who, in turn, 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. According to the ‘Black Widow’ star, OpenAI reluctantly agreed to take down the voice.

“Out of respect for Ms. Johansson, we have paused using Sky’s voice in our products,” Altman said. “We are sorry to Ms. Johansson that we didn’t communicate better.” ChatGPT did pull Sky’s voice a week after launch. However, Altman did respond by saying that, “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.”

OpenAI is backed by Microsoft. “Sky’s voice is not an imitation of Scarlett Johansson but belongs to a different professional actress using her own natural speaking voice,” the company reiterated in a blog post after the controversy arose. “To protect their privacy, we cannot share the names of our voice talents.”

Johansson didn’t believe them. “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,” Johansson has since said. “Mr. Altman even insinuated that the similarity was intentional, tweeting a single word ‘her.’”

“In a time when we are all grappling with deepfakes and the protection of our own likeness, our own work, our own identities, I believe these are questions that deserve absolute clarity,” she said in a statement.

“I look forward to resolution in the form of transparency and the passage of appropriate legislation to help ensure that individual rights are protected,” Johansson concluded. At least I think it was her

The following two tabs change content below.

Reg P. Wydeven

Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorney at McCarty Law LLP
Hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps from a young age, Reg’s practice primarily consists of advising individuals on estate planning, estate settlement and elder law matters. As Reg represents clients in matters like guardianship proceedings and long-term care admissions, he feels grateful to be able to offer families thorough legal help in their time of need.

Latest posts by Reg P. Wydeven (see all)