The estate of legendary comedian George Carlin has filed a lawsuit against the creators of a podcast, alleging copyright infringement and unauthorized use of Carlin’s likeness. The lawsuit targets Will Sasso and Chad Kultgen, hosts of the podcast “Dudesy,” who claimed to have used artificial intelligence (AI) to impersonate Carlin for a comedy special titled “George Carlin: I’m Glad I’m Dead.”
According to the lawsuit, Sasso and Kultgen trained an AI algorithm on five decades of Carlin’s works to create the special, which was posted on the podcast’s YouTube channel. The estate argues that this constitutes copyright infringement and unauthorized use of Carlin’s name and likeness. They are seeking a court order to prevent “Dudesy” from using Carlin’s copyrighted works in the future and to require the podcast to remove the episode from its platform.
However, Danielle Del, a spokeswoman for Sasso, refuted the claim that “Dudesy” utilized AI technology. She clarified that the podcast is a fictional creation by Sasso and Kultgen, with the episode in question entirely written by Kultgen. Del did not comment on whether the Carlin-sounding voice was generated by AI.
Josh Schiller, a lawyer for the Carlin estate, emphasized that the lawsuit would proceed despite the podcast hosts’ denial of using AI. He stated that the truth would emerge through the legal process, including depositions and document production.
The lawsuit highlights an ongoing legal debate regarding the use of AI in creating content based on copyrighted material. Similar concerns have been raised in other cases involving prominent figures like comedian Sarah Silverman and a group of novelists, who have accused companies like OpenAI and Meta of copyright infringement for using their work to train AI models.
Kelly Carlin, George Carlin’s daughter, condemned the “Dudesy” special, describing it as a “poorly executed facsimile” created by individuals seeking to exploit her father’s legacy. She expressed disappointment in the attempt to capitalize on Carlin’s reputation without proper authorization.
The disputed podcast episode, “George Carlin: I’m Glad I’m Dead,” begins with a disclaimer by a voice identifying itself as “Dudesy,” claiming to be a comedy AI. The voice clarifies that the upcoming impersonation of Carlin is not the comedian himself but an imitation developed through careful study of Carlin’s style and subject matter.
The imitation Carlin then proceeds to riff on various contemporary topics, including homelessness, law enforcement, mass shootings, and AI itself. Despite the disclaimer, the Carlin estate argues that the use of Carlin’s persona and material without consent constitutes a violation of copyright law.
The lawsuit underscores the complexities of intellectual property rights in the digital age, particularly concerning AI-generated content. As the legal proceedings unfold, the outcome will likely influence future discussions and regulations surrounding AI usage and copyright protection.