OpenAI faces controversy over GPT-4o voice that resembles Scarlett Johansson

San Francisco, May 2024— OpenAI’s recent release of its new huge language model, GPT-4o, has aroused outrage owing to its voice, Sky, which many say closely resembles that of Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson. During the streaming event, Chief Technology Officer Mira Murati emphasized GPT-4o’s user-friendly, multimodal capabilities, which include speech, text, and vision interactions. However, the focus rapidly switched to Sky’s voice, which many viewers found strikingly similar to Johansson’s portrayal of a sentient AI in the 2013 film *Her*.

The parallels surprised Johansson, especially because she turned down an invitation from OpenAI CEO Sam Altman to voice the chatbot in September 2023. Altman claimed that Johansson’s voice may make the AI more familiar and comfortable for users. Following the event, Johansson received numerous comments pointing out the resemblance, and Altman’s tweet mentioning “Her” only fueled the notion.

In response, OpenAI categorically rejected any intentional mimicking. A spokeswoman emphasized, “The voice of Sky is not Scarlett Johansson’s, and it was never intended to sound like hers. We cast the voice actor behind Sky’s voice before contacting Ms. Johansson.” Despite this, OpenAI has paused utilizing Sky’s voice, recognizing the need for improved communication.

This occurrence raises important ethical and legal concerns in the field of generative AI. Charlie Warzel, a tech writer, pointed out that this dispute highlights the problematic features of generative AI, which frequently depends on loosely defined “fair use” rules and ignores potential ethical violations. Johansson’s situation could result in legal claims for privacy invasion, false endorsement, and infringement of the right to publicity, especially under California law, which provides substantial protections for personal likenesses.

Legal experts worry that improvements in AI make it simpler to reproduce voices, endangering not only superstars but also everyday people. This instance recalls previous legal disputes over voice impersonation, such as those involving Bette Midler and Tom Waits in the 1980s, and highlights the critical need for updated regulations to match these new technological possibilities.

As OpenAI addresses this debate, it serves as a timely reminder of the importance of ethical considerations in technical breakthroughs. To maintain public trust and ensure ethical usage of AI-generated material, the technology industry must handle these problems with caution.

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