Scarlett Johansson likeness generated by AI app ‘Lisa AI’

How will the courts handle this unstoppable AI-generated trend?

Scarlett Johansson takes legal action against AI app Lisa AI: 90s Yearbook & Avatar

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Celebrity actress Scarlett Johannsson is reportedly considering legal action regarding an ad for AI app ‘Lisa AI‘. The advertisement itself was produced using artificial intelligence, without the involvement or permission of the actress herself. This development comes not long after actor Tom Hanks went through precisely the same ordeal, leading many to voice concerns over the potential for theft of likeness, defamation, copyright infringement and other forms of fraud possible with AI technology.

The Black Widow actresses lawyer, Kevin Yorn, spoke to Variety, asserting that “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.”

In the ad, an AI-generated likeness of Scarlett Johansson encourages users to try out the technology, with incredibly awkward phrasing. The video, now deleted from X (formerly Twitter), is actually an edited version of an authentic but old clip of Johansson, on set for Black Widow in 2020.

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.

Not Scarlett Johansson, via Lisa AI

Johansson’s attorney is fighting a wider battle for precedent where, across the film and music industries, AI threatens the livelihood of many creative professionals. Modern neural networks are becoming increasingly accurate at generating a fake image or fake voice recording of a person, to the point that Google and UMG have accepted this as inevitable, and have tabled a deal to take advantage of it. AI videos like the one recreating her likeness are becoming a systematic threat, with Forrest Gump actor Tom Hanks victim to an unsanctioned dental plan ad, featuring an AI-generated clip of Hanks appearing to endorse something he had no knowledge of. The promotional video, and Hanks’ AI version, are already the subject of appropriate legal actions. It’s hoped the financial sanctions as a result of the unauthorized use of a person(s likeness) will exceed what these apps are pulling in.

The power of generative AI continues to cause havok, with continued tensions between Hollywood and SAG-AFTRA. An ongoing actors strike centres around negotiations of an actors likeness being used by movie studios in perpetuity, and without ongoing royalties. A successful deal could see impoverished billion-dollar film studios forced to bestow their on-screen workforce with a jaw-dropping 2% of the revenue that they generated, a concession that these studios purportedly cannot afford. Coincidentally, Warner Bros Discovery is currently pulling north of $33 Billion USD in annual revenue, with $30 Billion for Paramount Global, $82 Billion for Walt Disney, and so on.

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What is Lisa AI: 90s Yearbook & Avatar?

The app, popularized by TikTok in early October, allows users to create AI-generated photos of themselves in different scenarios. So much so, in fact, that the 90s AI yearbook TikTok trend has now been added into the display name of the app on both the Google Play store and Apple’s App store. In this trend, social media stars such as Bretman Rock and Charli D’Amelio influenced fans to create images of themselves stylised with 90s haircuts and outfits, satiating a nostalgic desire for the classic 90s yearbook photo aesthetic they never had.

With this viral uptick in users, app developer Convert Software has clearly brought in some marketing budget. This is not surprising, as after 1 million+ downloads on Google Play alone, the concerningly poor 2.1 star overall rating reveals that the app circumvents Googles subscription management system, making it more difficult to cancel your payment subscription than it should be.