The lawsuit filed in federal court in Los Angeles on Thursday asks that a judge order the podcast outlet, Dudesy, to immediately take down the hour-long audio special, “George Carlin: I’m Glad I’m Dead,” in which a synthesis of Carlin, who died in 2008, delivers commentary on current events. The lawsuit is also seeking an unspecified amount in damages.
Carlin’s daughter, Kelly Carlin, shared her feelings on the special in a statement: “I understand and share the desire for more George Carlin. 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.”
The comedy special was released on the Dudesy YouTube channel, which is hosted by Canadian comedian Will Sasso and podcaster Chad Kultgen. Both hosts were listed as defendants along with Dudesy LLC.
At the beginning of the hour-long video, released two weeks ago, a generic AI voice identifies itself as Dudesy to introduce the special. The voiceover then switches into a voice eerily similar to that of Carlin’s while telling jokes and musing on topics like religion, politics and the comedian’s 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 video starts.
“I 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.”
If this is indeed how the special was created, by ingesting Carlin’s 50 years’ worth of material, then the comic’s copyright was violated, the lawsuit argues.
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“None of the Defendants had permission to use Carlin’s likeness for the AI-generated ‘George Carlin Special,’ nor did they have a license to use any of the late comedian’s copyrighted materials,” the lawsuit states.
The plaintiffs are not only alleging copyright violation, but they also argue that the AI-generated work actively harms Carlin’s legacy.
“Defendants’ AI-generated ‘George Carlin Special’ is not a creative work. It is a piece of computer-generated clickbait 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 lawsuit reads.
“In addition to the immediate fact of infringement, Defendants’ AI-generated “George Carlin Special” may also deter younger audiences, who are unfamiliar with George Carlin, from engaging with his real work that is his legacy. Defendants must be held accountable for adding new, fake content to the canon of work associated with Carlin without his permission.”
The defendants have not filed a response to the lawsuit and it’s not clear whether they have retained a lawyer. They could not immediately be reached for comment.
After the AI Carlin special was posted, the Dudesy YouTube account released a podcast episode with Sasso and Kultgen to comment on the video.
“What we just listened to, was that passable,” Kultgen says in a section of the episode cited in the lawsuit.
“Yeah, that sounded exactly like George Carlin,” Sasso responds.
Soon after the special’s release, Kelly Carlin took to Twitter to denounce it.
“My dad spent a lifetime perfecting his craft from his very human life, brain and imagination. No machine will ever replace his genius,” she wrote.
“These AI generated products are clever attempts at trying to recreate a mind that will never exist again. Let’s let the artist’s work speak for itself. Humans are so afraid of the void that we can’t let what has fallen into it stay there.”
The lawsuit is among the first in what is likely to be an increasing number of major legal moves made to fight the regenerated use of celebrity images and likenesses.
The AI issue was a major sticking point in the resolution of last year’s Hollywood writers’ and actors’ strikes.
Josh Schiller, a lawyer 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.”
This is not the first Dudesy-created AI comedy special to land the media company in hot water.
The first “special” they created sought to imitate football player Tom Brady doing a stand-up routine. The video was titled: “It’s Too Easy: A Simulated Hour-Long Comedy Special.”
The video was taken down after Brady threatened to sue, but copies of the video have been subsequently re-uploaded to the internet by third parties.
The AI-generated Carlin special is still up on the Dudesy YouTube account.
— With files from The Associated Press
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