AI & Personal Rights Intersection: Scarlett Johansson's Legal Battle

Scarlett Johansson recently filed a lawsuit against an AI-driven advertisement that exploited her name and image without her consent, sparking a heated debate over the nexus of artificial intelligence and personal rights.

Oshi Saxena
New Update

(Image credits: AFP/Getty Images)

The confines of consent and the ethical use of one's likeness have once again come under scrutiny in the constantly evolving landscape of technology and celebrities. Hollywood actor Scarlett Johansson recently filed a lawsuit against an AI-driven advertisement that exploited her name and image without her consent, sparking a heated debate over the nexus of artificial intelligence and personal rights.


The crux of the controversy revolves around a 22-second ad that was disseminated on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. This advertisement was crafted by a peculiar AI-driven app known as Lisa AI: 90’s Yearbook & Avatar. What made it even more audacious was its unapologetic use of real footage of Scarlett Johansson, which was manipulated to generate a fictitious image and dialogue, all without her consent.

The Unauthorised AI Advertisement

The video commenced with an exclusive behind-the-scenes clip of Johansson from her role in the Marvel film "Black Widow." With a welcoming "What’s up, guys? It’s Scarlett, and I want you to come with me…" she beckoned to her audience before the screen transitioned seamlessly into AI-generated photos that strikingly resembled her. A voice, skillfully mimicking Scarlett Johansson's, continued to promote the app with a persuasive tone: "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," the imitation concluded.

Legal Action and Consequences

Her representatives were swift to clarify this in a statement to Variety, emphasizing that she had taken immediate legal action as soon as the unauthorized advertisement came to her attention. Her lawyer, Kevin Yorn, 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." As a consequence, the advertisement was promptly removed from the platform.

However, the fine print under the advertisement succinctly noted, "Images produced by Lisa AI. It has nothing to do with this person." This raises questions about the responsibilities of both the platform and the app developer in safeguarding the rights and identities of individuals.


A Wider Issue

This isn't the first time Scarlett Johansson has been confronted with the unauthorized use of her image. In 2018, she vocalized her distress in an interview with the Washington Post, shedding light on the sinister world of "deepfakes." These are computer-generated simulations that illicitly superimpose women's faces onto pornographic videos.

Johansson's lamentation still rings true today: "Nothing can stop someone from cutting and pasting my image or anyone else's onto a different body and making it look as eerily realistic as desired." The virtual landscape remains largely unregulated, a digital wild west that remains predominantly lawless, even in the face of policies that apply only to a limited jurisdiction.

Johansson is not alone in her struggle to protect her image from unauthorized AI use. In a similar vein, Tom Hanks recently took to Instagram to alert his fans about an AI-generated image being used in a dental plan promotional video without his consent. His message was, "Beware! … I have nothing to do with it," highlights the broader concern of celebrities having their identities manipulated without consent.


Kartik Aaryan, a Bollywood actor, recently faced a distressing incident. A morphed video of him endorsing the Congress party in the upcoming Madhya Pradesh elections went viral. However, the video's origin was far from political; it was originally shared by the OTT platform Disney+Hotstar for the ICC Men's World Cup. The video was cleverly edited and dubbed to portray the actor supporting the political party's campaign promises. The video not only exploited Kartik Aaryan's image but also propagated a false narrative. This incident highlights how AI-generated content can be manipulated for personal and political agendas.



Furthermore, authors, including the well-known comedian Sarah Silverman, have filed lawsuits against ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI and Meta, for copyright infringement. Their allegations suggest that artificial intelligence models have been trained on their work without proper authorization, prompting a larger discussion about intellectual property and the use of AI in creative endeavours.

The Power of Influence and the Challenge of Verification

In today's digital age, the power of influence is amplified by the widespread reach of social media. Celebrities, with their vast followings, can shape public opinion and create trends. However, this power also makes them vulnerable to exploitation. Their images and statements can be taken out of context, manipulated, or entirely fabricated to serve personal and political agendas.

This challenge is not limited to celebrities alone. Common people, with the advent of deepfake technology, can also be targeted. These maliciously crafted AI-generated images and videos can tarnish reputations, influence opinions, and even incite social or political unrest.

The cases of Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Kartik Aaryan, and others emphasize the need for stringent regulations and ethical considerations in the use of AI-generated images. While technology offers a plethora of creative possibilities, it also raises ethical, legal, and privacy challenges that demand thoughtful solutions.

Views expressed by the author are their own.

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