Scarlett Johansson takes legal action against AI app that copied her likeness

Scarlett Johansson has previously warned about the scourge of pornographic deepfakes (AFP via Getty Images)
Scarlett Johansson has previously warned about the scourge of pornographic deepfakes (AFP via Getty Images)

Scarlett Johansson is taking the legal route against an AI company that used her name and likeness in an advert without her consent.

The Hollywood star appeared in an ad shared on X/Twitter for an AI image-generating app called Lisa AI: 90s Yearbook and Avatar. Johansson’s representatives confirmed to Variety that the Hollywood star is not a spokesperson for the app, and that her attorney “handled the situation in a legal capacity”.

The 22-second advert showed Johansson behind the scenes of the Marvel blockbuster Black Widow, where she is shown saying “What’s up, guys? It’s Scarlett and I want you to come with me…”. The clip then transitions to AI-generated photos that resemble Johansson, with a fake voice imitating her to promote the 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.

The fine print under the ad reads: “Images produced by Lisa AI. It has nothing to do with this person.” The advert has since been scrubbed from X, which began flagging AI-generated content as potentially misleading in late May.

The app’s creator, Convert Software, reportedly still has several AI apps on the iOS App Store and Google Play.

Generative AI apps that can turn your pics into fantastical avatars, or let you revel in nostalgia by creating school yearbook photos, are all the rage online. While some of them are safe to use, others use shady tactics to hoard your facial data and personal information.

Recently, a wave of celebs have warned about companies using AI to rip off their likeness.

As the Standard reported earlier this year, football legend Ian Wright and TV survivalist Bear Grylls have appeared in AI-generated ads for dodgy get-rich-quick schemes on X. A few weeks ago, Tom Hanks warned fans that a company was using an AI image of him to sell dental plans.

Johansson knows a thing or two about having her likeness pinched. The Oscar-nominated actress previously spoke out against pornographic deepfakes. In the clips, which have circulated on social media and adult sites, female celebs including Johansson can be seen with their heads stitched onto the bodies of porn stars.

Speaking in late 2018, Johansson said it was futile trying to fight back against those who create deepfakes. “I think it’s a useless pursuit, legally, mostly because the internet is a vast wormhole of darkness that eats itself," she said. "It’s a fruitless pursuit for me but a different situation than someone who loses a job over their image being used like that."