Scarlett Johansson's claims against OpenAI's ChatGPT bot, explained – The Philadelphia Inquirer

Scarlett Johansson said she was “shocked” and “angered” to find out the voice of the chatbot named Sky sounded “eerily similar” to hers.
A public dispute between actress Scarlett Johansson and OpenAI provides the latest look at how artists across crafts are battling with artificial intelligence as new technologies develop.
On Monday, Johansson threatened legal action against OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT and other rising AI tools, claiming the company used her likeness after she told them not to. Hours earlier, OpenAI announced it would “pause” its new voice, named Sky, following widespread comparisons to Johansson’s voice.
In a statement released by the actress that evening, Johansson said OpenAI approached her last year and asked her to lend her voice to their GPT-4.0 chatbot. She said that after she declined, she was “shocked” and “angered” to hear from friends — as well as media and the general public — that Sky sounded “eerily similar” to her.
Experts say what happens next could set the tone regarding the future of AI, trust in OpenAI, and the matter of women’s consent.
Here are six things to know.
The Sky chatbot was made to mimic a real conversation with a woman in real time. In her statement, Johansson suggested that OpenAI CEO Sam Altman was drawing comparisons between Sky and the actress’ character, Samantha, from the movie, Her.
Following the launch of the new GPT-4.0 chatbot, Altman sent a one-word tweet that said “her.”
In an interview last year, he shared that Her — in which Joaquin Phoenix plays a heartbroken man who falls in love with an AI system voiced by Johansson — is his favorite movie.
“I like Her,” he said. “The things Her got right — like the whole interaction models of how people use AI — that was incredibly prophetic.”
Johansson shared in her statement Monday that Altman first pitched her on being a ChatGPT voice in September.
“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,” she said. “He said he felt that my voice would be comforting to people.”
Johansson declined, adding that Altman followed up twice. But a preview for Sky launched shortly after.
Sky made her debut in September, with a demo preview launching two days after Altman asked Johansson to reconsider, she claims.
The comparisons to Johansson were quick to follow.
“Each of the personas has a different tone and accent,” an article by the Washington Post said at the time. “’Sky’ sounds somewhat similar to Scarlett Johansson, the actor who voiced the AI that Joaquin Phoenix’s character falls in love with in the movie, Her.”
The system was fully launched last week and the comparisons continued, even prompting a joke on Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” segment, which stars Johansson’s husband, Colin Jost.
Marking SNL’s season finale, Jost and his co-star Michael Che did their annual “joke-swap” segment, where they write heightened cringe-worthy jokes for the other to read for the first time live on air.
Che wrote for Jost, “ChatGPT has released a new voice assistant feature inspired by Scarlett Johansson’s AI character in Her, which I’ve never bothered to watch because without that body, what’s the point of listening?”
By Monday, OpenAI announced it was pulling Sky’s voice.
In a statement, OpenAI said it would “pause the use of Sky” while addressing “questions about how we chose the voices in ChatGPT, especially Sky.”
The company denied it was deliberately mimicking Johansson’s voice, and said the bot’s voice belonged to a voice actress using her own speaking voice. OpenAI said it wouldn’t name the voice actress, citing privacy concerns.
But critics have pointed out that OpenAI’s statement failed to mention that the company had approached Johansson. Some suggested taking down Sky’s voice was an admission of guilt.
Johansson’s legal counsel wrote two letters to OpenAI demanding that they detail how they created Sky’s voice. The letters were sent after OpenAI rolled out its demo, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Ahead of Johansson’s public recounting of events, OpenAI said it would pause its usage of Sky. But potential litigation looms as Johansson’s team — and the general public — await more details.
“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 wrote in her statement Monday evening.
Johansson’s experience is the latest example of A-list celebrities voicing concerns with artificial intelligence.
AI technology firms have been accused of manipulating and profiting off the voices of artists like Drake and Ariana Grande.
Labor disputes between SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild of America have also raised concerns about AI replacing human talent. In a statement Tuesday, SAG-AFTRA commended Johansson for publicly calling out OpenAI.
Visual artists and photographers have raised similar concerns with the new tech.
The disputes mark a growing rift between content creators and technology firms.
If Johansson pursues legal action, her case could set a precedent for the future of how creators and AI work together.