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Artists Continue to Voice Concerns Over AI Companies’ Unauthorized Use of Voices

May 28, 2024

The public dispute between Scarlett Johansson and OpenAI over the voice of “Sky” as part of ChatGPT’s new speaking feature, which sounds remarkably like Ms. Johansson, hearkening to her voicing of the virtual-assistant-turned-love-interest in the 2013 film Her, has received big headlines. Ms. Johansson is not alone.  On May 16, 2024, a class of plaintiffs initiated a class action complaint against LOVO, Inc., a corporation headquartered in California providing clients with text-to-speech and other services through a subscription model for appropriation of their voices. The complaint alleges that plaintiffs provided their voice samplings under false pretenses, and that they were promised by anonymous users on the Fiverr platform that the samplings would be used for internal research purposes only, not for commercial use. However, the voice samplings can be manipulated through AI software and utilized such that the “voice” can say or narrate anything the user wants. Accordingly, while the actor may have provided only a small sampling of dialogue for a relatively minor sum, customers are able to use LOVO software to create long, full narrations with no additional compensation to the actors. Plaintiffs allege causes of action under, among others, state law right to privacy, false advertising, and deceptive business practices statutes, and common law fraud. Noticeably but understandably absent is a cause of action for copyright infringement under the Copyright Act; federal courts have held that “a voice is not copyrightable.” Ms. Johansson’s optimistic public statement that she looks forward to “the passage of appropriate legislation to help ensure that individual rights are protected” is well-received. Equally interesting is how these problems and issues continue to be raised, analyzed, and framed until then.

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