The estate of George Carlin is filing a lawsuit against the media company responsible for a fake hour-long comedy special that allegedly uses artificial intelligence to mimic the late stand-up comic’s style and material.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Los Angeles on Thursday, requests that a judge order the podcast outlet Dudesy to promptly remove the audio special, titled “George Carlin: I’m Glad I’m Dead,” in which a synthesized version of Carlin provides commentary on current events. Carlin passed away in 2008.
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In a statement, Carlin’s daughter, Kelly Carlin, describes the work as “a poorly executed facsimile cobbled together by unscrupulous individuals to capitalize on the extraordinary goodwill my father established with his adoring fanbase.”
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the Carlin estate and its executor, Jerold Hamza, alleging violations of Carlin’s right of publicity and copyright. The named defendants include Dudesy and podcast hosts Will Sasso and Chad Kultgen.
The lawsuit claims, “None of the Defendants had permission to use Carlin’s likeness for the AI-generated ‘George Carlin Special,’ nor did they have a license to use any of the late comedian’s copyrighted materials.”
As of now, the defendants have not responded to the lawsuit, and it remains unclear whether they have retained legal representation. They could not be reached for immediate comment.
At the outset of the special, posted on YouTube on Jan. 9, a voiceover claiming to be the AI engine used by Dudesy states that it listened to the comic’s 50 years of material and “did my best to imitate his voice, cadence, and attitude, as well as the subject matter I think would have interested him today.”
The plaintiffs argue that if this is indeed how it was created – some listeners have doubted its stated origins – it constitutes a violation of Carlin’s copyright.
As is customary with similar projects, the company also released a podcast episode featuring Sasso and Kultgen introducing and commenting on the mock Carlin.
In a section of the episode cited in the lawsuit, Kultgen asks, “What we just listened to, was that passable?” to which Sasso responds, “Yeah, that sounded exactly like George Carlin.”
This lawsuit is one of the first in what is likely to be an increasing number of major legal actions taken to combat the regenerated use of celebrity images and likenesses.
The issue of AI was a significant point of contention in resolving last year’s Hollywood writers and actors strikes.
Josh Schiller, an attorney for the plaintiffs, stated, “This case is not just about AI; it’s about the humans that use AI to violate the law, infringe on intellectual-property rights, and flout common decency.”