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Marvel Star Threatens Major Lawsuit, Could Open the Floodgates

Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Chris Evans as Captain America, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man, and Mark Ruffalo as the Incredible Hulk in The Avengers
Credit: Marvel

It seems that in almost no time at all, artificial intelligence has gone from something fantastical to something incredibly realistic. Artificial intelligence is also something that is progressing at a rapid rate. It seems to be moving and evolving faster than we can comprehend it. It’s gone from cartoon robot maids to complicated systems that can learn from social media, adapt to the world around it, and even write news articles that look like they were written by actual humans.

The Walt Disney Company

Credit: Disney

Related: Disney Replaces Dozens of Actors With Artificial Intelligence

In order to make AI bots sound as human-like as possible, AI companies are actively working to get the rights to some celebrity voices.

One of those voices is Scarlett Johansson — who has provided the voice for AI in the past with her 2013 film, Her. In the film, Johansson provides the voice for Samantha, an operating system designed to meet every need of her owner, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix). A lonely Theodore ends up falling for his complex virtual assistant.

A man with glasses and a mustache, wearing a red shirt, sits in a dimly lit room in front of a desk with a computer. The computer screen displays a red background with a loading symbol, possibly related to discussions about the Scarlett Johansson AI lawsuit. City lights are visible through the window behind him.

Credit: Warner Bros.

Related: Billionaire Investor Wants Disney to Use MORE AI to Create Stories

Recently, an artificial intelligence company called OpenAI tried to get Ms. Johansson to license the rights to use her voice for their new AI system, called “Sky”. Johansson would not agree and did not give them the right to use her voice. However, The Avengers (2012) star said that OpenAI CEO Sam Altman ignored her and used her voice anyway.

And now, she is threatening to file a major lawsuit against the company.

scarlett johansson

Credit: Marvel

Per a report from The Hollywood Reporter:

“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,” she wrote in a statement.

Johansson said that the similarity was intentional, pointing to Altman tweeting “Her” — a reference to her role as an AI assistant who forms an intimate relationship with a human in Her. She’s hired legal counsel, who wrote two letters to OpenAI, directing them to detail the process by which they created the “Sky” voice. Both of the letters referenced in Johansson’s statement (she wrote them herself) were sent after the Altman-led firm rolled out its demo and advanced multiple potential legal claims, a person familiar with the situation tells The Hollywood Reporter.

scarlett johansson

Credit: Disney/ABC/Good Morning America

OpenAI ended up deciding not to use “Sky”, but that has not caused Johansson to back down.

OpenAI is not the only AI company being threatened with legal action. In New York, a class action lawsuit against LOVO is being considered. The company is being accused of stealing the voices of multiple celebrities, including Wicked star Ariana Grande and late-night talk show host Conan O’Brien.

Not Johansson’s First Lawsuit

This is not the first time that Scarlett Johansson has been embroiled in a serious legal battle.

In July 2021, Ms. Johansson filed a lawsuit against The Walt Disney Company, claiming breach of contract. The lawsuit said that Disney and Marvel breached their contract with Ms. Johansson when they released her movie, Black Widow (2021), simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+.

Black Widow

Credit: Marvel

Bob Chapek — who was Disney CEO at the time — fought back, leaking how much money Johansson made on the film to the press. The company also claimed that Johansson was greedy and did not realize the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. While some thought Johansson made enough money, the move did not make Disney look good.

Just a few months after filing the lawsuit, Ms. Johansson and Disney announced that they had reached a settlement agreement. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Black Widow

Credit: Marvel

Related: Scarlet Johansson’s ‘Tower of Terror’ Movie Back in Production Post-Strike

Thankfully, the Lost in Translation (2003) actress is on good terms with the Mouse House. Things are so good that she is currently working on a new Tower of Terror film based on the iconic Hollywood Studios attraction. The film is reportedly being directed by Taika Waititi, the director of Thor: Love and Thunder (2022). The film does not have a release date.

Do you think AI companies should be sued for using celebrity voices without permission? Let us know in the comments!

About Krysten Swensen

A born and bred New England girl living the Disney life in Southern California. I love to read, to watch The Golden Girls, and love everything to do with Disney and Universal. I also love to share daily doses of Disney on my Disney Instagram @BrazzleDazzleDisney!

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