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The Legal Battles of AI: the voice cloning cases

Ai voice cloning, scarlett johansson
Published on X by @Evinst3in

Today, you can ask AI to create images, videos and even music. But you can also use AI-generated voices or clone existing ones for many purposes. With tools like ElevenLabs (our favorite), users can alter, clone and dub voices with impressive accuracy. This technology is increasingly used in various fields, from film narration and translation, to customer service and more.

However, its rapid development raises significant ethical and legal concerns.

Here are some of the hottest controversies.



Scarlett Johansson may be lawyering up against OpenAI over concerns about the unauthorized use of her voice for their AI personal assistant, Sky. According to a statement given by the actress to NPR, Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, reached out to her nine months ago to ask her to voice Sky, as it would be “comforting to people” since they are already familiar with her voice as an AI in the movie “Her”. But she refused. To her surprise, when the assistant was launched, the voice sounded eerily like hers. To add insult to injury, Altman posted on X: "Her," leading many to believe there was foul play.


However, OpenAI explained later in a blog post how they chose the voice. Nonetheless, Johansson’s legal team argues that the technology poses a significant threat to performers' control over their own voices. This situation could set a precedent for how AI-generated content is regulated and the extent to which individuals can protect their vocal likenesses.


"In a time when we are all grappling with deepfakes and the protection of our own likeness, our own work, our own identities, I believe these are questions that deserve absolute clarity", Johansson told NPR.



In the USA, two actors are suing the AI voice generation company LOVO for unauthorized use of their voices, as french lawyer, Betty Jeulin, shared on her Linkedin.

In the lawsuit, two actors allege that their voices were cloned and used without consent. Both were hired via Fiverr before the AI advent (2019 and 2020) for purposes like "academic research in voice synthesis" and "radio ad script tests for internal use". Unfortunately, one of them discovered his cloned voice was used in 2022 to promote Russian military equipment on YouTube and in a 2023 podcast about AI dangers (ironically). The other found her voice and image in a 2023 promotional video by LOVO, showcasing their AI voice cloning technology to investors on YouTube. They were paid $1,200 and $400, respectively.


The New York court will evaluate multiple legal issues, including possible breaches of SAG-AFTRA's rules on AI usage, highlighting important concerns about consent and fair compensation in the growing AI voice technology industry.



Another interesting case involves a Swiss-German artist, Helena Hallberg, who voiced Cortana for Microsoft in that specific language. In her TikTok video, she expresses disbelief upon learning that her voice was sold (cloned) to other platforms by the company, all for just $3,000.


This incident highlights the growing concern among voice professionals and other artists about the lack of control and potential exploitation enabled by AI voice cloning technology.

This, mixed with the unclear legal framework surrounding AI uses, leaves artists at a loss when situations like these happen.

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