George Carlin’s estate files a lawsuit over AI-generated comedy special

Jan 29, 2024

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

George Carlin’s estate files a lawsuit over AI-generated comedy special

Jan 29, 2024

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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The legendary comedian George Carlin sadly left us in 2008. Thankfully, his estate is very much alive and kicking, especially when it comes to protecting his legacy. A recent comedy special claiming to be an AI-generated “impression” of Carlin has been all over the internet – but it also sparked a heated legal battle. But like Carlin’s legendary routines, this drama is filled with twists and turns.

Some backstory

It all started when Dudesy released George Carlin: I’m Glad I’m Dead. The comedy special was presented as an “impression” of Carlin, generated by an AI trained on his material.You’ve probably seen it advertised somewhere, I know I have. Shortly after that, special drew attention – and controversy – for its uncanny resemblance to Carlin’s voice and style.

In the hour-long video, a generic AI voice introduces itself as Dudesy to start the special. The voiceover then switches into a tone that is very similar to Carlin’s while telling jokes and discussing various topics such as religion, politics, and even his own death.

“I’m Dudesy, a comedy AI, and I’m excited to share my second hour-long comedy special with you! I’m calling it ‘George Carlin: I’m Glad I’m Dead!’ For the next hour I’ll be doing my best George Carlin impersonation just like a human being would.”

The lawsuit

It didn’t take long before the AI special got under the spotlight, and under fire. “I understand and share the desire for more George Carlin” George Carlin’s daughter, Kelly Carlin, said in a statement, reported by thre Global News. ” I, too, want more time with my father.”

“The ‘George Carlin’ in that video is not the beautiful human who defined his generation and raised me with love. It is a poorly-executed facsimile cobbled together by unscrupulous individuals to capitalize on the extraordinary goodwill my father established with his adoring fanbase.”

Canadian comedian Will Sasso and podcaster Chad Kultgen, along with their podcast outlet Dudesy LLC, are now facing a lawsuit from the George Carlin Estate. The hour-long special was released on the Dudesy YouTube channel, but it’s not there any longer at the time of writing this. The lawsuit cites “unlawful appropriation of Carlin’s identity,” which also “damages the value of Carlin’s real work and his legacy.” It demands the immediate removal of the special from the platform, and seeks unspecified damages.

Defendants’ AI-generated “George Carlin Special” is not a creative work.  It is a piece of computer-generated click-bait which detracts from the value of Carlin’s comedic works and harms his reputation.  It is a casual theft of a great American artist’s work.

The plot thickens

While the AI special is presented as an AI-generated “impression” of Carlin, created by “listening” to Carlin’s existing material “in the exact same way a human impressionist would,” there’s more to this saga.

“It’s a fictional podcast character created by two human beings, Will Sasso and Chad Kultgen,” spokeswoman Danielle Del said, cited by Ars Technica. “The YouTube video ‘I’m Glad I’m Dead’ was completely written by Chad Kultgen.”

However, the estate isn’t buying it:

“Whether the Dudesy Special is indeed, from start to finish, the product of an artificial intelligence or simply relies on AI-powered tools to help a human better imitate George Carlin, the result is ultimately same:  Defendants always promoted and presented the Dudesy Special as an AI-generated George Carlin comedy special, where George Carlin was “resurrected” with the use of modern technology.  In short, Defendants sought to capitalize on the name, reputation, and likeness of George Carlin in creating, promoting, and distributing the Dudesy Special and using generated images of Carlin, Carlin’s voice, and images designed to evoke Carlin’s presence on a stage.”

This isn’t the first AI-related lawsuit we’ve seen over the past year or two. In January 2023, a trio of artists filed a copyright lawsuit against the creators of Stable Diffusion, Midjourney, and DreamUp, DeviantArt’s AI image generator. The Authors Guild and famous writers, including George R.R. Martin, sued OpenAI. Again, over copyright concerns. Even Getty Images sued Stability AI, alleging that its Stable Diffusion unlawfully scraped millions of copyrighted images from the platform.

All in all, the Carlin saga continues and his estate fights on. They defend not just intellectual property but the essence of a voice that dared to skewer, provoke, and inspire so many comedians and other folks (myself included). As the I’m Glad I’m Dead saga unfolds, one thing’s for sure: even in the digital afterlife, Carlin’s legacy remains very much alive.

[via Ars Technica]

Update 2024-01-29: There was an error in Carlin’s date of death. This has been corrected.

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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6 responses to “George Carlin’s estate files a lawsuit over AI-generated comedy special”

  1. Burt Johnson Avatar
    Burt Johnson

    I never found this foul-mouthed a**hole in the least bit funny. No idea why anyone would want to resurrect him… in any form… 🙁

  2. Scott Stevenson Avatar
    Scott Stevenson

    As they should… The work isn’t parody, not documentary, and expects the family accept it as legitimate work. It’s not…. BTW… He didn’t leave us in the future… Try editing that date FROM 2028 back to 2008.

  3. Rich Stlemen Avatar
    Rich Stlemen

    Just a money grab!

    1. Dave Cooley Avatar
      Dave Cooley

      Rich Stlemen what ya mean..?

  4. Captain Future Avatar
    Captain Future

    “The legendary comedian George Carlin sadly left us in 2028.”. That’s funny in so many ways. He would have appreciated that.

    1. Udi Tirosh Avatar
      Udi Tirosh

      Such a funny typo. I can see the irony. Let us fix that