Scarlett Johansson's Complaint Reflects State of AI Battle

Wall Street Journal explores how artists fear their work will be used without compensation
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted May 27, 2024 9:47 AM CDT
Scarlett Johansson's Complaint Reflects State of AI Battle
Scarlett Johansson, right, and Lorne Michaels, "Saturday Night Live" creator and producer, attend the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner at the Washington Hilton on April 27.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

When Scarlett Johansson heard a ChatGPT voice that she thought sounded a lot like hers, she put a legal team together to confront the developer, OpenAI. And the actress' high-powered agent was able to get the company's CEO, Sam Altman, on the phone. But most people don't have a star's money or clout, and they'll find little protection from laws to keep their work from being stolen. The episode makes clear the state of the tussle as Hollywood races to take advantage of quickly moving artificial intelligence technology, reports the Wall Street Journal, which has new details on the Altman-Johansson controversy.

OpenAI already is confronted by copyright lawsuits, though intellectual property owners have challenges in proving that their likeness or content was misused. Altman has said the industry needs to set up a system for paying artists for content that AI systems will want to employ. And he's said artists should also be able to decline AI uses that mimic their work—which maybe would cover a voice in a digital assistant that sounds like an actress in a major film. Legislative efforts are just beginning; bills to protect artists have been introduced in Congress but not passed.

The actors union supports such laws prohibiting the unauthorized digital replication of performers' voice and likeness. And it's working with Johansson on her complaint, per the Journal. (OpenAI has paused its use of the voice, which it says was modeled on a different actress.) The situation may reflect a danger in the tech world's guiding philosophy that it should "move fast and break things." Lourd, a co-chairman of Creative Artists Agency, suggests an adjustment to that practice. "It's not too late for these companies to slow down and put processes in place to ensure that the products that are being built are built transparently, ethically, and responsibly," he said. (Read the full story.)

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