George Carlin estate settles its lawsuit against the makers of a fake ‘comedy special’

george carlin
Share this Article:

The estate of George Carlin has reached a settlement with the creators of a purportedly AI-generated ‘comedy special’ featuring the late comedian.

In January, an hour-long ‘comedy special’, featuring the synthesised voice and delivery style of the late comedian George Carlin, emerged on YouTube. Said to be generated entirely using AI, the video was uploaded by a pair of comedians and podcasters named Dudesy, and seemed calculatedly designed to garner online attention – and it’s fair to say the gambit worked.

Within days, the George Carlin estate filed a lawsuit against the makers of the video – real names Will Sasso and Chad Kultgen – alleging copyright and the violation of publicity laws. The video in question, entitled I’m Glad I’m Dead, was subsequently taken down.

Months later, and that suit has since been settled out of court; in plain terms, the Dudesy Podcast has agreed to an injunction that restrains it from using “George Carlin’s image, voice or likeness” on any of its channels. There’s no indication as to whether the Dudesy Podcast agreed to pay any damages to the Carlin estate.

According to Kelly Carlin, the late comedian’s daughter, the lawsuit was designed to highlight “the dangers posed by AI technologies.

“I am pleased that this matter was resolved quickly and amicably, and I am grateful that the defendants acted responsibly by swiftly removing the video they made,” Carlin said in a statement published by Deadline. “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.”

Interestingly, Chad Kultgen later backpedalled on the claim that the fake Carlin video had been entirely AI-generated; a January statement sent by the Dudesy Podcast to Arstechnica said that I’m Glad I’m Dead was “completely written by Chad Kultgen.”

All the same, the timing of the video – and its use of speech synthesis – arrived amid growing concern about the use of new AI technology. Later in January, the emergence of deepfake images of Taylor Swift on social media led to calls from the Screen Actors Guild to make fake images illegal.

It’s a sentiment echoed by Joshua Scholler, the lawyer handling the Dudesy case on the Carlin estate’s behalf.

“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,” Scholler said in a statement. “This is not a problem that will go away by itself. It must be confronted with swift, forceful action in the courts, and the AI software companies whose technology is being weaponised must also bear some measure of accountability.”

Share this Article:

More like this