George Carlin Estate Sues Over Fake Comedy Special Generated by AI Technology

January 27, 2024 - Reading time: 2 minutes

The estate of the late comedian George Carlin is taking legal action against a media company that has produced an hour-long comedy special using artificial intelligence (AI) to recreate his style and material.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Los Angeles, seeks to have the podcast outlet Dudesy remove "George Carlin: I'm Glad I'm Dead," which features a synthesis of Carlin discussing current events.

Carlin's daughter, Kelly Carlin, stated that this 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 suit alleges violations of Carlin’s right of publicity and copyright.

The named defendants in the lawsuit are Dudesy, podcast hosts Will Sasso, and Chad Kultgen. The plaintiffs argue that none of these parties had permission to use Carlin's likeness for this AI-generated special or obtain a license to utilize any of his copyrighted materials.

The defendants have not yet filed a response to the lawsuit, nor is it clear if they have retained legal representation. They could not be reached for comment at the time of writing. The introduction of the special posted on YouTube on January 9th states that an AI engine used by Dudesy listened to Carlin's 50 years of material and attempted to imitate his voice, cadence, and attitude as well as the subject matter they believe would have interested him today.

The plaintiffs argue if this was indeed how it was created—and some listeners have questioned its stated origins—it means that Carlin's copyright has been violated. This case is among the first in what is likely to be an increasing number of major legal moves made to fight the regeneration of celebrity images and likenesses using AI technology.

Josh Schiller, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a statement that "the 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."

George Carlin's legacy is one of sharp wit and the relentless pursuit of truth through humor. As this case unfolds, it serves as a stark reminder of the need to protect the integrity of an artist's work, ensuring that the essence of what they created in life is not distorted for profit in death.

DW Staff

David Lintott is the Editor-in-Chief, leading our team of talented freelance journalists. He specializes in covering culture, sport, and society. Originally from the decaying seaside town of Eastbourne, he attributes his insightful world-weariness to his roots in this unique setting.