Scarlett Johansson sues AI app using her likeness

One month ago, when discussing Zelda Williams’ comments on AI being illegally used to impersonate her late father Robin, I opined that “a huge chunk of celebs’ management budgets now are gonna be allocated for lawyers playing whack-a-mole with all these fake AI videos.” And here we are. Over this past weekend, an AI image-generating app called Lisa AI ran a 20-second ad on Twitter (I’m done saying “X formerly Twitter,” it’s Twitter, Elno, that’s what you bought) that featured Scarlett Johansson’s likeness. Four days after the ad was first seen online, Scarlett’s lawyers slapped the app with legal action. Lisa AI has seemingly removed the ad from the interwebs, but is it too late? Scarlett’s lawyer Kevin Yorn says they’re exploring all legal remedies at their disposal:

“We do not take things lightly. Per our usual course of action in these circumstances, we will deal with it with all legal remedies that we will have,” Yorn told Variety.

The ad, reviewed by Variety, begins with an old clip of Johansson behind the scenes of Marvel’s “Black Widow.” Johansson says, “What’s up guys? It’s Scarlett and I want you to come with me…” before a graphic covers her mouth and the screen transitions into AI-generated photos that resemble the actor. A fake voice imitating Johansson then continues speaking, promoting the AI app. “It’s not limited to avatars only. You can also create images with texts and even your AI videos. I think you shouldn’t miss it,” says a voice that sounds like Johansson.

Fine print under the advertisement reads: “Images produced by Lisa AI. It has nothing to do with this person.” Multiple Lisa AI apps, which are created by Convert Software, remain on the App Store and Google Play. The app maker did not respond to Variety’s request for comment.

Many states have strict laws when it comes to the right of privacy, with California providing a civil claim for the unauthorized use of one’s “name, voice, signature, photograph or likeness” for the purpose of advertising or promotion. While some famous people may bring a lawsuit against those using their name and likeness without approval in order to set a precedent, most of such cases are settled with cease and desist demands.

Johansson isn’t the only actor to have her name and likeness stolen and manipulated for the purpose of advertising. Last month, Tom Hanks took to social media to warn his fans about a promotional video for a dental plan that features an AI version of the actor. “Beware! … I have nothing to do with it,” Hanks wrote on his Instagram story.

[From Variety]

I like Scarlett Johansson in stealth legal mode. It was two years ago that she got Disney to pay out for screwing her out of backend bonuses on Black Widow. Disney had released the movie in theaters and also on Disney+. Scarlett’s contract, as with most actors, afforded bonuses related to ticket sales, but didn’t account for streaming. Now Scarlett is seeking to protect her most valuable asset, her name and likeness, from being used without her consent. In both cases, Scarlett has used lawsuits to advocate for herself when business practices and contracts have not caught up to rapidly developing technology. Compensation that accounts for streaming and protections against AI usage have been the leading issues of contention in the SAG-AFTRA strike, with AI reportedly being a final sticking point in negotiations. In being willing to take these legal steps, Scarlett is undoubtedly setting precedents for this pivotal moment in the industry. Women leaders get sh*t done.

Photos credit: IMAGO/Barbara Hine / Avalon

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

15 Responses to “Scarlett Johansson sues AI app using her likeness”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. villanelle says:

    Huh. So….her image got appropriated. I have hard time feigning indignation for that, or feigning respect for any supposed ‘leader’ identity you want to give her credit for. She has her very own history of appropriation, cultural not individual, and I remember that she doubled right down and solidified her douche status.

    So no.

    • katie says:

      you can dislike her as a person but realize this is a pivotal moment for all actors. if this company wins, it sends a message that their likeness/voice are all up for grabs as long as you caption it was created with AI. whether u think she is a leader or not, she’s the first female actress to take ppl to court over this.

      • goofpuff says:

        I agree with @katie. Does she have a problematic history yes absolutely, but what she is doing now is incredibly important to more than just celebrities but regular people as well. Winning a case like this means that anyone trying to deep fake/AI your likeness in all kinds of revenge porn schemes can be sued using this case. She is the first one to do this so she gets kudos from me to investing her money in this because it won’t be cheap.

      • molly says:

        Agreed. Someone with a lot of money, capital, and time needs to be the first to throw down the legal hammer to set precedence with all this AI stuff. Current copyright laws and NIL parameters are just too far behind technology to keep up.

        Whatever you think about her past decisions, she’s doing really important work that will impact people and the industry forever. Good for her for doing it.

    • Shawna says:

      There are no perfect victims.

    • Nikki says:

      I’m not even sure what past crime of Scarlett’s you’re referring to, but the fact is that in THIS CASE, she’s clearly in the right. How would you like it if a company used YOUR likeness to advertise something you don’t believe in: furs, guns, etc.? Companies can not be allowed to use real people’s images to sell their products without the real person’s consent, period.

      • Aurora says:

        If by ‘history’ you mean how the first movie centered around a transgender action hero didn’t get made, bc she had to step down the role amongst ‘to each, its own’ complaints of dubious inclusivity… Yes. But whether we like Scarlett or not, she’s pioneered and funded effective recognition of abuse in the industry due to technology. Her first lawsuit no doubt helped to brew concerns into actions on how streaming companies have been sistematically been ripping cast and crews off residuals. This one is going to influence SAG-AFTRA negotiations and set rules for future contracts.

    • DeeSea says:

      What an odd comment. Apples and oranges. Yes, SJ has been problematic in some glaring ways. I don’t see anyone disputing that. But are you saying that she should just suck it up and let these AI companies profit off of her likeness without her consent? And are you saying that she shouldn’t challenge this legally and potentially be instrumental in establishing an important legal precedent? Frankly, I don’t care who tackles this legal issue—and I sure am impressed by and grateful to anyone who is challenging it head-on like SJ is.

    • MoxyLady007 says:

      And yet she can’t stop saying yes to scripts/ stories with a poc as the lead. Basically appropriating their story and whitewashing their likeness.

      “The story wouldn’t get made without her!”

      Fine. Then we wait until such a time when investors and production companies realize that these stories need to be told with POC actors in the lead. Because they can and do need to be told that way. And they are profitable.

    • snappyfish says:

      I have never seen her appeal. But hey, she is one of the original Nepo babies.

  2. Cee says:

    She’s always been ahead, hasn’t she? First with streaming and now taking action against AI. This will serve to help the Union’s involved make a point and she is setting a precedent, which is always helpful.

  3. Flower says:

    Good for her – if they want to sell products then they need to create AI that humans RECOGNISE and can RELATE to.

  4. Kirsten says:

    Good for her.

  5. Jasper says:

    Good. We need some serious action taken and regulations put in place for AI. We are not ready for the ramifications if AI just gets released into the wild.

  6. Eowyn says:

    Surely people can see how important it is for people to have control over their likeness to prevent their image being used to promote problematic or outright dangerous or hateful speech? This is really important for personal autonomy and for democracy.