HomeTech Scarlett Johansson’s OpenAI clash is just the beginning of legal disputes over artificial intelligence

Scarlett Johansson’s OpenAI clash is just the beginning of legal disputes over artificial intelligence

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Scarlett Johansson's OpenAI clash is just the beginning of legal disputes over artificial intelligence

When OpenAI’s new voice assistant said it was “doing fantastic” At a launch demo this month, Scarlett Johansson was absent.

The Hollywood star said she was “shocked, angry and in disbelief” that the updated version of ChatGPT, which can listen to spoken prompts and respond verbally, had a voice “eerily similar” to hers.

One of Johansson’s signature roles was as the voice of a futuristic version of Siri in the 2013 film Her, and for the actor, the similarity was stark. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman appeared to acknowledge the film’s influence with a single-word post on X on release day: “she.”

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In a statement, Johansson said that Altman had approached her last year to be the voice of ChatGPT and that she had turned him down for “personal reasons.” OpenAI confirmed this in a blog post but he said he had been approached to be an extra voice for ChatGPT, after five had already been chosen, including the voice that had alarmed Johansson. She was approached again days before May 13th releaseadded OpenAI, about becoming an “additional future voice.”

OpenAI wrote that AI voices should not “deliberately imitate the distinctive voice of a celebrity” and that the voice in question used by the new GPT-4o model, Sky, was not an imitation of Scarlett Johansson but “belongs to an actress.” different professional who uses his own.” natural voice when speaking.”

The relationship between AI and the creative industries is already tense, with authors, artists and music publishers filing lawsuits over copyright infringement, but for some activists the furor is emblematic of the tensions between wider society and a technology whose Advances could leave politicians, regulators and industries following in their wake.

One of Johansson’s signature roles was as the voice of a futuristic version of Siri in the 2013 film Her, also starring Joaquin Phoenix. Photography: Warner Bros/Sportsphoto/Allstar

Christian Nunes, president of the National Organization for Women, who has spoken out on the issue of deepfakes, said that “people feel like technology is taking away their choices and their autonomy,” while Sneha Revanur, founder of Encode Justice , a youth-led group campaigning for AI regulation, said the dispute with Johansson highlighted a “collapse of confidence” in AI.

OpenAI, which left Sky, wrote in another this month’s blog post that he wanted to contribute to the “development of a broadly beneficial social contract for content in the age of AI.” He also revealed that he was developing a tool called Media Manager that would allow content creators and owners to flag their work and whether they wanted it to be included in the training of AI models, which “learn” from a large amount of material taken from the Internet.

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However, when OpenAI talks about a social contract, the entertainment industry is looking for something more concrete. Sag-Aftra, the US actors union, sees this as a learning moment for the tech industry.

Jeffrey Bennett, general counsel at Sag-Aftra, says: “I’m willing to bet there are quite a few companies that don’t even understand that voice rights exist. So a lot of education will have to be imparted. And now we are prepared to do it aggressively.”

Sag-Aftra, whose members went on strike last year over a range of issues including the use of AI, wants a person’s image, voice and likeness to be enshrined as an intellectual property right at the federal level. (or national).

“We feel that it is urgent to establish a federal intellectual property right in image, voice and likeness. “If you have an intellectual property right at the federal level, you can require online platforms to remove unauthorized uses of digital replicas,” Bennett says.

To that end, Sag-Aftra supports the No Fakes Act, a bipartisan bill in the United States Senate that seeks to protect performers from unauthorized digital replicas.

Chris Mammen, partner and intellectual property specialist at US law firm Womble Bond Dickinson, sees an evolving relationship between Hollywood and the tech industry.

“I think that technology is developing so rapidly, and new potential uses of technology are invented almost daily, that there are bound to be tensions and disputes, but also new opportunities and new deals to be made,” he said.

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When Johansson made her comments on May 20, she said she had hired legal counsel. It is unclear whether Johansson is considering legal action, now that OpenAI has pulled Sky. Johansson’s representatives have been contacted for comment.

However, legal experts contacted by The Guardian believe she could have a basis for a case and point to “right of publicity” claims that can be brought under state law, including in California. The right of publicity protects a person’s name, image, likeness and other identifying features from unauthorized use.

“Generally, a person’s right of publicity may be considered violated when a party uses the person’s name, image or likeness, including voice, without their permission, to promote a business or product,” Purvi Patel said. Albers, partner at the American firm Haynes Boon.

Even if Johansson’s voice was not used directly, there is precedent for a lawsuit by a case brought by singer Bette Midler against the Ford Motor Company in the 1980s, which had used a Midler impersonator to replicate her voice in a commercial. Midler won at the US Court of Appeals.

“The Midler case confirms that it does not have to be an exact replica to be actionable,” Albers said.

Mark Humphrey, a partner at law firm Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, said Johansson had “some favorable facts,” such as the publication of “she” and the fact that OpenAI approached her again shortly before the launch.

“If everything OpenAI has claimed is true, and there was no intention for Sky to sound like Ms. Johansson, why was OpenAI still trying to negotiate with her at the last minute?” However, Humphrey added that she had spoken to people who thought Sky didn’t sound like Johansson. Washington Post reported a statement from the actor behind Skywho said that “she has never been compared” to Johansson by “the people who do know me closely.”

Daniel Gervais, a law professor and intellectual property expert at Vanderbilt University, said Johansson would face an “uphill battle” even if states like Tennessee had recently expanded their right of publicity law to protect an individual’s voice.

“There are some state laws that protect voice in addition to name, image and likeness, but they have been tested. “They are being challenged on a variety of grounds, including the first amendment,” he said.

As the use and competition of generative AI grows, so will the legal battles around it.

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