Advertisement

George Carlin Estate Files Lawsuit Against Group Behind AI-Generated Stand-Up Special: ‘A Casual Theft of a Great American Artist’s Work’

The George Carlin estate has filed a lawsuit against Dudesy, the media company behind the recent viral AI-generated hour-long comedy special “George Carlin: I’m Glad I’m Dead,” which featured an approximation of the late comedian’s voice and comedy style that was allegedly generated by a chatbot trained by Carlin’s own material.

Filed in California federal court on Thursday, the plaintiff is seeking a court order for an immediate removal of the special, plus an unspecified amount in damages. The lawsuit alleges that the company infringed on copyright by using Carlin’s materials to train the chatbot without seeking permission or licensing.

More from Variety

At the start of the special, which remains available to watch on YouTube at this time, an approximation of Carlin’s voice is heard, stating that 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.” The suit alleges that, by doing so, the chatbot created unauthorized copies of Carlin’s copyrighted work. The plaintiff also alleges that the content hurts the late comedian’s reputation and takes issue with a recreation of Carlin’s voice being used to promote the video, calling the special “a casual theft of a great American artist’s work.”

Dudesy podcast hosts Will Sasso and Chad Kultgen are named as defendants, along with 20 John Does — five creators associated with the AI program and 15 individuals tied to the “creation, production and sponsorship” of the special.

“My father was a legendary comedian and a once-in-a-lifetime talent whose legacy is the body of work that he left behind — his actual performances, albums and books. I understand and share the desire for more George Carlin. I, too, want more time with my father. But it is ridiculous to proclaim he has been ‘resurrected’ with AI,” the comedian’s daughter Kelly Carlin wrote in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “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.”

The case represents one of the first major instances of a performer or their estate seeking legal action against the creators of an AI-generated recreation — a growing concern across the entertainment industry.

“AI may be the most important technology invented in generations, and therefore requires a great amount of control and restraint to ensure that it is not misused,” attorney Josh Schiller of Boies Schiller Flexner, LLP said in a statement. “We risk it becoming a tool that allows bad-faith actors to replace creative expression, to exploit the already existing work of creators, and to get rich at the expense of others. This 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.”

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.