The estate of the late stand-up comedy legend George Carlin is currently suing a media company that created an hour-long comedy special using artificial intelligence (AI) to imitate the comedian’s style and content.
The lawsuit, which was filed on Thursday in federal court in Los Angeles, requests that a judge compel the podcast outlet Dudesy to immediately remove the audio program, “George Carlin: I’m Glad I’m Dead,” which features a synthesis of Carlin commenting on contemporary affairs.
Carlin passed away from congestive heart failure in 2008.
Kelly Carlin, the daughter of comedian George Carlin, stated that the work is “a poorly executed facsimile cobbled together by unscrupulous individuals to capitalize on the extraordinary goodwill my father established with his adoring fanbase.”
The lawsuit names the Carlin estate and Jerold Hamza, its executor, as plaintiffs. It claims that Carlin’s copyright and right of publicity have been violated. Dudesy podcast hosts Will Sasso and Chad Kultgen have been named as the lawsuit’s defendants.
Sasso is an actor and comedian as well, while Kultgen is a journalist and author.
“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,” the lawsuit states.
The AI engine utilized by Dudesy introduced the special on YouTube on January 9th, claiming to have listened to the comic’s 50 years of material and having “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 claim that if that is indeed how the A.I. audio was created, since some listeners have questioned its claimed place of origin, then Carlin’s copyright was indeed infringed.
This case is one of the first of many significant legal actions that will be taken in order to stop the repurposed use of celebrity photos and likenesses in any form.
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Josh Schiller, said in a statement that the action is about “humans who use AI to violate the law, infringe on intellectual property rights, and flout common decency,” not solely about AI.