Actors Union Backs Scarlett Johansson after Claim of Voice Misuse by OpenAI

REUTERS/Yara Nardi/File Photo
The 76th Cannes Film Festival – Screening of the film “Asteroid City” in competition – Red Carpet Arrivals – Cannes, France, May 23, 2023. Cast member Scarlett Johansson poses.

SAG-AFTRA, an influential body representing television and radio artists, on Tuesday backed Scarlett Johansson after the American actress raised concerns over the voice feature of a new OpenAI system that she said sounded “eerily similar” to her own.

OpenAI unveiled its latest artificial intelligence model, GPT-4o, last week, featuring an audio-interacting persona named “Sky.”

Johansson said on Monday that she had previously turned down a request from the company to use her voice for this system. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman clarified that the voice belonged to a different professional actress and said he was removing Sky’s voice from the company’s products.

“We thank Ms. Johansson for speaking out on this issue of crucial importance to all SAG-AFTRA members. We share in her concerns and fully support her right to have clarity and transparency regarding the voice used,” a SAG-AFTRA spokesperson said.

SAG-AFTRA, which represents about 160,000 entertainment and media professionals globally, played a big role in securing agreements from Hollywood studios for better pay and protections against the use of AI for actors.

The dispute over the rights to actors’ voices and images has become a focal point in Hollywood as studios evaluate AI’s potential for creating new entertainment. The issue is particularly relevant as computer-generated images and sounds become increasingly indistinguishable from human ones.

SAG-AFTRA said it was “strongly championing federal legislation that would protect their voices and likenesses” and will continue engaging with OpenAI and other stakeholders “to enshrine transparent and resilient protections for all of us.”