Scarlett Johansson gains actors union support in AI voice controversy

FILE PHOTO: The 76th Cannes Film Festival - Press conference for the film "Asteroid City" in competition - Cannes, France, May 24, 2023. Cast member Scarlett Johansson attends. REUTERS/Yara Nardi/File Photo
Source: REUTERS

SAG-AFTRA, a union representing around 160,000 entertainment and media professionals globally, has supported Scarlett Johansson after the American actress raised concerns about the voice feature of OpenAI's new system, claiming it sounded "eerily similar" to her own.

OpenAI recently unveiled its latest artificial intelligence model, GPT-4o, which includes an audio-interacting persona named "Sky." Johansson revealed on May 20 that she had previously declined a request from OpenAI to use her voice for this system.

In response, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman clarified that the voice in question belonged to a different professional actress and announced that Sky's voice would be removed 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 stated.

SAG-AFTRA has been instrumental in securing agreements from Hollywood studios for better pay and protections against the use of AI for actors.

The debate over actors' rights to their voices and images has become a central issue in Hollywood as studios explore AI's potential for creating new entertainment. This concern grows more pressing as computer-generated images and sounds become increasingly indistinguishable from human ones.

SAG-AFTRA emphasised that it is "strongly championing federal legislation that would protect their voices and likenesses" and will continue to engage with OpenAI and other stakeholders "to enshrine transparent and resilient protections for all of us."

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