Scarlett Johansson accuses OpenAI of plagiarizing voice: 'Shocked' and 'in disbelief'

“Avengers” and “Her” actress Scarlett Johansson revealed that legal action was likely behind OpenAI removing a voice that sounded eerily like hers.

A statement released by NPR on Monday explained that OpenAI CEO Sam Altman reached out to Johansson in September about possibly hiring her to voice the ChatGPT 4.0 system. She claimed he suggested her “comforting” voice “could bridge the gap between tech companies and creatives” and help with the “seismic shift concerning humans and Al.”

Though she rejected the offer after “much consideration and for personal reasons,” Johansson was furious to hear the public discuss how the “Sky” voice system resembled hers.

Scarlett Johansson said in a statement that she took legal action against OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and the company. (ROBYN BECK/AFP)

“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. 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,” the statement read.

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Johansson also said that Altman contacted her team two days prior to the demo, which was released before she could respond.

“As a result of their actions, I was forced to hire legal counsel, who wrote two letters to Mr. Altman and OpenAl, setting out what they had done and asking them to detail the exact process by which they created the ‘Sky’ voice. Consequently, OpenAl reluctantly agreed to take down the ‘Sky’ voice,” the statement read.

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

OpenAI insisted that the “Sky” voice system is not meant to imitate Scarlett Johansson. (Getty Images)

In a statement to Fox News Digital, Altman said, “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. Out of respect for Ms. Johansson, we have paused using Sky’s voice in our products. We are sorry to Ms. Johansson that we didn’t communicate better.”

Johansson’s comments followed OpenAI’s announcement earlier this morning that it would be “pausing” the use of the “Sky” voice as it addresses “questions about how we chose the voices in ChatGPT.”

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In a blog post on Sunday, OpenAI insisted that the voices on the program came from a five-month process “involving professional voice actors, talent agencies, casting directors, and industry advisors.” The company added that each actor was financially compensated and not intentionally based on a celebrity.

OpenAI announced it would pause one of its voices after people began pointing out how similar it sounded to Scarlett Johansson’s. (Idrees Abbas/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

“We believe that AI voices should not deliberately mimic a celebrity’s distinctive voice—Sky’s voice is not an imitation of Scarlett Johansson but belongs to a different professional actress using her own natural speaking voice. To protect their privacy, we cannot share the names of our voice talents,” the post read.

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Johansson voiced the artificial intelligence virtual assistant “Samantha” in the 2013 movie “Her.”

Lindsay Kornick is an associate editor for Fox News Digital. Story tips can be sent to [email protected] and on Twitter: @lmkornick.

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