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🙊 OpenAI is losing its voice

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If you take just one thing from this email…

OpenAI used a voice in its product that sounded *too much* like Scarlett Johansson, so she’s suing them. Generative AI is getting criticised for not respecting intellectual property rights and personal content. The incident highlights the urgent need for laws that balance innovation with the protection of creators' rights.


Whenever someone signs up for LittleLaw, they get an email from me (yes, you’ve caught me — it is an automatic email!)

And this week, I got this *very cool* response from Rachel — based in New Zealand! 🤯

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🙊 OpenAI is losing its voice

Scarlett Johansson Oscars GIF by PBS SoCal

Credit: Giphy

What's going on here?

The actress Scarlett Johansson has criticised OpenAI for using a voice in its ChatGPT product that closely resembled hers without her consent.

What’s the story?

Sam Altman, OpenAI’s founder, first reached out to Scarlett Johansson to ask if she could be the voice for Open AI’s system — Johansson said no.

But a few months later, Sam Altman released a voice called “Sky” which sounded suspiciously similar to Johansson’s voice anyway.

To make things worse, Sam Altman’s publicly tweeted a reference to the movie “Her”, a film where Scarlett Johansson was the voice of an AI robot which interacted with humans.

OpenAI has since removed the Sky voice from the product. They’ve said it was not intended to imitate Johansson.

If you want to hear it — here’s the AI voice of Sky telling the story from Scarlett Johansson’s perspective👇️ 

What’s the problem?

The problem is simple: Generative AI products need a load of content to learn from. But people don’t want it to be trained on their content without them giving permission.

There are loads of examples…

  • 👄 In this case, the AI has (allegedly) been trained on Scarlett Johansson’s voice.

  • 📰 A few months ago, OpenAI was sued by NY Times for copyright infringement.

  • 📸 The image library Getty Images is suing Stability AI (the UK-based creator of an AI image generator) for using Getty’s copyrighted images

Getty brought that claim both in the UK and the US. Here’s the complaint document from the US — it’s pretty interesting to read!

What’s the big picture effect?

📜 Suitable rules: The law will need to strike a balance between protecting creators while not getting in the way of innovation.

The rise in generative AI is testing whether the UK’s long-standing intellectual property laws (mainly, the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA)) are suitable.

Cases like Getty vs. Stability AI need courts to redraw those lines.

For example, Stability AI argues that the use of “article” in section 22 of the CDPA only relates to physical items (like books) — not software.

Depending on what the Court finally decides, it would have a massive impact on whether digital products are subject to the same copyright rules as physical products.

🌍️ A global approach: Courts in different countries will have to face similar disputes. If they don’t have a consistent approach to these cases, it could lead to tech companies relocating to the countries with the more tech-friendly courts — this is called jurisdiction shopping. An uneven playing field like this would harm the rights of creators.

For example, under UK copyright law, if it is found that the training of the AI happened outside of the UK, there hasn’t *strictly* been a breach of UK copyright law — these are the sorts of loopholes that the courts may need to close off.


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  • 🚨 After 175 future trainees were wrongly told they had failed the SQE assessment, the Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) is threatening to go to the Legal Services Board if improvements aren't made. The JLD met with the SRA and Kaplan to discuss fixing the marking issues, criticising the £250 ‘goodwill payment’ as being inadequate. Some affected students had their training contracts rescinded. The SRA mentioned they've already agreed on compensation with some students.

  • 🌏 Bird & Bird is launching a Tokyo office in December. This marks their first international expansion in a new five-year strategy. The Tokyo office will assist Japanese clients with cross-border work in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia-Pacific, focusing on tech, renewable energy, life sciences, and media. The firm plans to expand their team and leverage their existing Asia presence in Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai.

  • 🚀 DWF is rolling out Microsoft Copilot globally, making it one of the first firms to do so. Clifford Chance was first but DWF is following closely behind. The change is aiming to boost productivity with Copilot’s AI features like email summarisation, drafting replies, and data analysis. This move is part of DWF's Digital Transformation program. The firm’s Chief Operating Officer, Matt Glenville, believes Copilot will enhance efficiency and help attract top talent.

  • 💼 Paul Weiss is advising the private equity firm KPS Capital Partners on its proposed acquisition of Innomotics (a global motor business) from Siemens AG for €3.5 billion. Innomotics generates €3.3 billion in revenue and employs around 15,000 people. The sale is expected to close early in 2025. (Learn how private equity firms structure their acquisitions to make more money, read this).



  • 📹️ Free application help: If you're applying to commercial law firms, check out my YouTube channel for actionable tips and an insight into the lifestyle of a commercial lawyer in London.

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