George Carlin’s estate settles lawsuit over AI comedy special

George Carlin’s estate reached a settlement this week with the creators of a comedy special that claimed to use artificial intelligence to impersonate the late comedian.

In a proposal awaiting a Central District of California judge’s approval, the team that created, uploaded and promoted “George Carlin: I’m Glad I’m Dead” agreed to being permanently forbidden from sharing the hour-long YouTube video on any of its platforms, and to never again use Carlin’s image, voice or likeness unless approved by the comedian’s estate.

“Our goal was to resolve this case expeditiously and have the offending videos removed from the internet so that we could preserve Mr. Carlin’s legacy and shine a light on the reputational and intellectual property threat caused by this emerging technology,” Joshua Schiller, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “This settlement is a great outcome for our clients and will serve as a blueprint for resolving similar disputes going forward where an artist or public figure has their rights infringed by AI technology.”

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The fake Carlin comedy special appeared on YouTube in January, drawing ire from Carlin’s fans. A purported AI engine named “Dudesy” said it “listened to all of George Carlin’s 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.”

Many viewers were skeptical that the special was entirely AI-generated, as its creators claimed. The comedian’s estate sued on Jan. 25, claiming that the podcast’s hosts, Will Sasso and Chad Kultgen, as well as Dudesy LLC and 20 unnamed individuals involved with the special, engaged in “an unlawful appropriation of Carlin’s identity” by using the comedian’s catalogue of work to seemingly train AI. Sasso and Kultgen did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The late comedian’s daughter, Kelly Carlin, said in a statement that she was pleased with the quick settlement and the video’s removal.

“While it is a shame that this happened at all, I hope this case serves as a warning about the dangers posed by AI technologies and the need for appropriate safeguards not just for artists and creatives, but every human on earth,” she said.

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