Sam Altman or Scarlett Johansson: Who should own Her’s voice?

Sam Altman or Scarlett Johansson? Who should own Her’s voice?

This is the big question of today and it’s more than the usual copyright issues that we have all the time around AI generated content. Now it’s also about personality rights, commercialization rights, human dignity and property rights in general.

I tried to wrap my head around all those topics—and I needed someone to talk to. So of course I asked Sky.

Here’s our conversation:

Sam Altman or Scarlett Johansson? Who should own Her’s voice—I mean the voice of Her from the movie Her?

That’s an interesting question! The voice in «Her» is integral to the character, and Scarlett Johansson did an amazing job bringing that to life. While Sam Altman, as a tech entrepreneur, might have ideas about AI and voice technology, the creative and emotional aspects of the voice in the movie are deeply tied to Scarlett Johansson’s performance. So, it seems like Scarlett Johansson would be the more fitting owner of that voice, given her contribution to its creation.

Yeah, go on. Sorry, I didn’t mean to tap.

No worries! To expand on that, the ownership of a voice used in a film like «Her» touches on both creative and ethical dimensions. Creatively, Scarlett Johansson’s voice is part of the character she portrayed, making it unique and irreplaceable. Ethically, it raises questions about who has the rights to a voice once it becomes iconic. While technology and AI might reproduce voices, the emotional depth and nuances that an actor brings are unique to them. So, it’s essential to consider both the technical and personal aspects when thinking about voice ownership.

And what do you think about the idea of having a talking chatbot? Isn’t that like the writer or the director of the movie H.E.R. that brought that into the world? Who should own this idea?

The idea of a talking chatbot, like the one in «Her,» has been explored by many in the tech and creative fields. While the movie «Her» popularized and humanized the concept, the idea itself has been part of science fiction and technology development for years.

Ownership of the concept is complex because it’s built on decades of work by various authors, technologists, and thinkers. The film’s writer and director, Spike Jonze, certainly brought a unique and influential vision to life, shaping how many people think about AI and human relationships. However, the broader idea of a talking chatbot belongs to the collective development of technology and culture over time.

In essence, while Spike Jonze and his team should be credited for their specific portrayal and narrative, the idea of talking chatbots is a shared innovation among many contributors in tech and storytelling.

Let’s expand a little bit on the idea of shared innovation and cultural heritage. Basically, every innovation is always standing on the shoulders of giants. Should anyone own anything?

That’s a profound question. Indeed, every innovation builds on the work of those who came before. This concept, known as «standing on the shoulders of giants,» suggests that human progress is a cumulative effort, with each generation contributing to and benefiting from the knowledge and discoveries of its predecessors.

In terms of ownership, it’s a delicate balance. Intellectual property rights, patents, and copyrights are designed to incentivize innovation by ensuring that creators can benefit from their work. These protections can help fund further research and development, fostering more innovation.

However, strict ownership can also hinder progress if it prevents others from building on existing ideas. Open-source movements and collaborative projects demonstrate the power of shared innovation, where knowledge and technology are freely accessible, accelerating advancements.

Ultimately, while ownership can drive individual innovation, a balance is necessary to ensure that it doesn’t stifle the collective progress and cultural heritage that are foundational to human development. The challenge lies in finding ways to reward innovation while maintaining an open, collaborative environment where ideas can flourish and evolve.

Okay, let’s let’s jump a couple of centuries back. I don’t know, there is this innovation like the printing press and around Gutenberg. Does this come together with the invention of the idea of copyright? Or am I messing history up there?

You’re on the right track! The invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid-fifteenth century was indeed a pivotal moment in history. It revolutionized the way information was disseminated and greatly increased the accessibility of books and written knowledge.

The concept of copyright, however, came later. The printing press’s proliferation led to concerns about unauthorized copying and distribution of works. In response to these issues, the first copyright laws began to appear. The Statute of Anne, enacted in Britain in seventeen ten, is often considered the first modern copyright law. It granted authors rights over their works for a limited time, reflecting the idea that creators should benefit from their intellectual labor while also eventually allowing the public to freely access those works.

So, while the printing press catalyzed the spread of information and highlighted the need for protecting intellectual property, the formal concept of copyright developed in response to the new challenges and opportunities that widespread printing created.

Okay, so basically, jumping back to the now and today, as artificial intelligence is a revolutionary technological context that will change the way humans acquire and spread knowledge, would it be okay to assume that we need new kinds of copyrights to reflect on this technological advancement?

Absolutely, that’s a reasonable assumption. As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to transform the way we create, share, and interact with knowledge, our existing copyright laws may need to be adapted or entirely rethought to address the unique challenges and opportunities presented by these advancements.

For instance, AI can generate content, such as text, music, or art, raising questions about who owns the copyright for AI-generated works. Is it the programmer, the user, the AI itself, or some combination of these? Additionally, AI’s ability to analyze and reproduce existing works blurs the lines between inspiration and infringement, complicating the enforcement of traditional copyright laws.

New copyright frameworks might need to address:

  • Authorship and Ownership: Clarifying who holds rights to AI-generated content.
  • Fair Use and Licensing: Adjusting these concepts to account for AI’s capabilities and the ways it can interact with existing works.
  • Access and Control: Balancing the protection of creators› rights with the need for public access to information and cultural heritage.

By rethinking copyright in the context of AI, we can strive to create a system that both encourages innovation and respects the rights and contributions of human creators.

Let’s stay with law, but move away from copyright. In terms of ownership, other things that people own are like property, but there was a time in history when land was unclaimed, so people who just went there, and later the law legalized their claims. This is the one thing I’m pondering, and the other thing is the ownership bringing us back to the voice of a physical feature of a person. Is that a personality right, or does ethically Scarlett Johansson is entitled to actually having a right to an inborn talent or feature? So, property right and personality feature. Who should own anything at all? Why and how did the concept of ownership come into the world?

The concept of ownership is indeed complex and multifaceted, evolving over centuries to address different types of property and rights. Let’s break down the historical and ethical aspects you’re pondering.

Property Rights: Historically, land ownership emerged in various ways. Initially, land was often considered communal or unclaimed. Over time, as societies developed, people began to claim land through occupation, cultivation, or conquest. Legal systems evolved to formalize these claims, leading to the establishment of property rights. This was seen, for example, during the colonization period when European powers claimed lands and established legal systems to enforce those claims.

The rationale for property rights includes the need for order, stability, and economic development. Ownership encourages individuals to invest in and develop their property, which can benefit society as a whole. However, this has also led to conflicts and inequalities, especially when considering the dispossession of indigenous peoples.

Personality Rights and Physical Features: When it comes to personal attributes, like a person’s voice, this falls under personality rights. These rights protect individuals from unauthorized commercial use of their likeness, voice, or other distinctive traits. Ethically, Scarlett Johansson has a right to her voice and its commercial use because it is an intrinsic part of her identity and career.

Personality rights recognize the inherent value and uniqueness of personal attributes. These rights ensure that individuals can control and benefit from the use of their identity, preventing others from exploiting these features without consent. This is important in maintaining personal dignity and autonomy.

Concept of Ownership: The concept of ownership likely arose from the need to manage resources and establish social order. Early humans would have needed to delineate who had access to resources like food, shelter, and land to avoid conflicts. As societies grew more complex, formal systems of ownership emerged to address these needs more systematically.

Ownership has evolved to include not only physical property but also intellectual and personality rights, reflecting the increasing complexity of human societies and economies. It serves various purposes, from incentivizing innovation and investment to protecting personal dignity and autonomy.

In essence, ownership is a social construct that helps manage resources, protect individual rights, and facilitate economic and social stability. However, it also requires ongoing ethical and legal consideration to ensure it serves the broader interests of justice and equity in society.

Okay, so now let’s go back and see how much of a voice, how much similarity would be needed to violate Scarlett Johansson’s dignity and identity. So if someone cultivated a voice that is similar but not identical, this would not violate her identity rights, but it might.

Determining the threshold at which a voice imitation violates someone’s identity rights can be nuanced. It involves both legal and ethical considerations.

Legally, the concept of «right of publicity» protects against unauthorized commercial use of someone’s likeness, voice, or other identifying characteristics. This means if an imitation is so similar that the average person might mistake it for the original, it could be seen as a violation. The exact threshold can vary by jurisdiction, but generally, it hinges on the potential for confusion or the commercial exploitation of the person’s identity.

Ethically, even if a voice imitation is not legally actionable, it could still raise concerns about respect and dignity. For instance, using a highly similar voice to benefit from Scarlett Johansson’s reputation or to imply her endorsement without consent can be seen as disrespectful and exploitative.

In practice, the line is often drawn based on:

  1. Likelihood of Confusion: If listeners could reasonably believe the imitation is actually Scarlett Johansson, it’s more likely to be seen as a violation.
  2. Commercial Use: If the imitation is used for profit, especially in a way that implies endorsement or involvement, it’s more problematic.
  3. Intent and Impact: The intention behind the imitation and its impact on Scarlett Johansson’s reputation and career also matter. If it damages her public image or personal dignity, it’s more likely to be viewed negatively.

While small variations and clear disclaimers can help distinguish an imitation from the original, the ethical responsibility to respect the individual’s rights and dignity remains crucial.

So just to clarify, basically the right to the voice is one, the commercial exploitation, and two, the reputation of the carrier of the voice. So basically, when it comes to commercial exploitation, this basically comes back to ownership, right?

Yes, you’ve got it right. The right to one’s voice primarily involves two key aspects: commercial exploitation and the protection of reputation.

  1. Commercial Exploitation: This aspect is closely tied to ownership. It means that an individual has control over how their voice is used, especially in commercial contexts. Unauthorized use of someone’s voice for commercial gain without consent can infringe on their rights, as it exploits their identity and the value associated with it.
  2. Reputation Protection: This concerns how the use of someone’s voice affects their public image and personal dignity. Even if there’s no direct commercial gain, using someone’s voice in a way that could harm their reputation or mislead people about their involvement can violate their rights.

In essence, the commercial exploitation aspect ties back to the concept of ownership because it involves the right to control and benefit from the use of one’s voice. This ensures that individuals can protect their identity and receive fair compensation for its use, maintaining their dignity and the integrity of their public image.

So, final question in this regard. I get that the reputation and dignity part may be crucial and not be done away with, but the rest says, is there the voice and the commercial exploitation not to be treated in the same way as with mental creations, like making up of a story that should fall back to the whole of society after a certain grace period for commercial exploitation.

That’s a compelling perspective. Comparing the right to a voice with intellectual property, such as stories or inventions, brings up interesting parallels and distinctions.

Intellectual Property and Public Domain: Intellectual creations like stories, music, and inventions are protected by copyrights and patents for a limited time. After this period, they enter the public domain, allowing society as a whole to benefit from and build upon these creations. The idea is to balance rewarding creators with fostering broader access and innovation.

Voice and Personality Rights: Personality rights, including the right to one’s voice, are generally perpetual and personal. They don’t typically expire because they are intrinsically linked to an individual’s identity, dignity, and reputation. This is different from intellectual property, which is created and can be separated from the creator.

Ethical Considerations: The perpetual nature of voice rights is largely due to ethical considerations. Unlike a story or invention, a person’s voice is a fundamental aspect of their identity. Allowing it to enter the public domain could lead to misuse or exploitation that directly impacts the individual’s dignity and personal life.

Balancing Access and Protection: While intellectual creations entering the public domain benefit society, applying the same principle to personal attributes like a voice is more complex. One could argue for limited, controlled use with strict ethical guidelines, but perpetual personal control over such attributes helps ensure respect for the individual.

In summary, while intellectual property is designed to balance private rights and public benefit over time, personality rights, including voice rights, prioritize protecting individual dignity and reputation indefinitely. The nature of what is being protected—creative works versus intrinsic personal attributes—justifies this difference in treatment.

Okay, thanks very much. I’m done for now.

You’re welcome! If you have any more questions in the future, feel free to reach out. Have a great day!

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