Oscar-nominated actor Scarlett Johansson has recently initiated legal action against an AI app developer for employing her likeness in a promotional ad without her permission. The 22-second ad showcased an AI image editor named Lisa AI: 90s Yearbook & Avatar, featuring an AI-generated version of Johansson’s voice and image. This incident underscores the growing concern surrounding the unauthorized use of celebrities’ likenesses in the emerging world of AI-generated content.
The controversy erupted when an ad for Lisa AI: 90s Yearbook & Avatar appeared, prominently featuring Scarlett Johansson’s likeness. The ad begins with a genuine clip of Johansson from behind-the-scenes footage of her movie “Black Widow,” where she says, “What’s up guys? It’s Scarlett, and I want you to come with me…”. However, it swiftly transitions into AI-generated photos and a cloned version of her voice promoting the AI app. The ad included fine print at the bottom, stating, “Images produced by Lisa AI. It has nothing to do with this person.”
While the ad may have included this disclaimer, the unauthorized use of Johansson’s likeness raised legal concerns. Scarlett Johansson’s lawyer, Kevin Yorn, confirmed they are taking the matter seriously and pursuing legal remedies. He stated, “We do not take these things lightly. Per our usual course of action in these circumstances, we will deal with it with all legal remedies that we will have.”
Scarlett Johansson’s prominent public profile
Scarlett Johansson is a well-known figure in Hollywood, celebrated for her acting talent and recognized for her distinctive voice. She also serves as a spokesperson for high-end brands such as Dolce & Gabbana and Louis Vuitton. Given her prominence and the distinctiveness of her image and voice, it is surprising that someone would attempt to use her likeness without proper authorization.
AI and the challenge to celebrities’ likeness rights
The use of AI to replicate celebrity likenesses is a relatively new and evolving phenomenon, leaving legal frameworks and regulations in a state of development. The incident involving Scarlett Johansson is just one example of the challenges celebrities face who seek to protect their image rights in an increasingly digital and AI-driven world.
In a similar case, actor Tom Hanks took to social media to warn his fans about the fraudulent use of AI-generated versions of his likeness to promote products. Such incidents highlight the potential for AI to be exploited for unauthorized commercial gain at the expense of celebrities’ rights and reputations.
Legal ramifications and privacy rights
While the legal landscape surrounding AI-generated content and the rights of celebrities remains somewhat ambiguous, certain states, including California, have enacted laws related to privacy rights. California, for instance, permits civil lawsuits against individuals or entities for the unauthorized use of someone’s “name, voice, signature, photograph, or likeness” in advertising or promotion. These laws protect individuals from the unauthorized commercial exploitation of their identity.
However, applying such laws to AI-generated content is still a subject of debate and interpretation, raising questions about the extent to which traditional legal frameworks can address the challenges posed by AI technology.
Scarlett Johansson’s legal action against an AI app developer for the unauthorized use of her likeness highlights the emerging challenges associated with AI-generated content and the rights of celebrities. As AI technology advances, it becomes increasingly critical to establish clear legal boundaries and regulations to protect the identities and reputations of individuals in the public eye.
While this case raises important questions about the boundaries of privacy rights and the responsibility of developers and platforms, it also underscores the need for heightened awareness among celebrities and the general public regarding the potential misuse of AI-generated content. As the legal landscape evolves, it is likely that more cases like Johansson’s will emerge, shedding light on the complex intersection of technology, identity rights, and the law in the digital age.