George Carlin estate forces “AI Carlin” off the Internet for good

The original YouTube thumbnail for Dudesy's Carlin special shows an AI-generated comedian sporting Carlin's signature gray ponytail look.
Enlarge / The original YouTube thumbnail for Dudesy’s Carlin special shows an AI-generated comedian sporting Carlin’s signature gray ponytail look.

The George Carlin estate has settled its lawsuit with Dudesy, the podcast that purportedly used a “comedy AI” to produce an hour-long stand-up special in the style and voice of the late comedian.

Dudesy’s “George Carlin: Dead and Loving It” special, which was first uploaded in early January, gained hundreds of thousands of views and plenty of media attention for its presentation as a creation of an AI that had “listened to all of George Carlin’s material… to imitate his voice, cadence and attitude as well as the subject matter I think would have interested him today.” But even before the Carlin estate lawsuit was filed, there were numerous signs that the special was not actually written by an AI, as Ars laid out in detail in a feature report.
Shortly after the Carlin estate filed its lawsuit against Dudesy in late January, a representative for Dudesy host Will Sasso told The New York Times that the special had actually been “completely written by [Dudesy co-host] Chad Kultgen.”

A promotional image cited in the lawsuit uses Carlin's name and image to promote the Dudsey podcast and special.
Enlarge / A promotional image cited in the lawsuit uses Carlin’s name and image to promote the Dudsey podcast and special.

Regardless of the special’s actual authorship, though, the lawsuit also took Dudesy to task for “capitaliz[ing] on the name, reputation, and likeness of George Carlin in creating, promoting, and distributing the Dudesy Special and using generated images of Carlin, Carlin’s voice, and images designed to evoke Carlin’s presence on a stage.” The resulting “association” between the real Carlin and this ersatz version put Dudesy in potential legal jeopardy, even if the contentious and unsettled copyright issues regarding AI training and authorship weren’t in play.

Still, Carlin estate attorney Joshua Schiller trumpeted the settlement as a win for any “artist or public figure [that] has their rights infringed by AI technology.” In a statement, Schiller highlighted “the power and potential dangers inherent in AI tools, which can mimic voices, generate fake photographs, and alter video” and urged “swift, forceful action in the courts” to hold AI software companies more accountable.

Court documents note that shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Dudesy had already “taken reasonable steps” to remove the special and any mention of Carlin from all of Dudesy’s online accounts. The settlement restrains the Dudesy podcast (and those associated with it) from re-uploading the special anywhere and from “using George Carlin’s image, voice, or likeness” in any content posted anywhere on the Internet.

Archived copies of the special are still available on the Internet if you know where to look. While the settlement notes that those reposts are also in “violat[ion] of this order,” Dudesy will not be held liable for any reuploads made by unrelated third parties.

“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,” Kelly Carlin (George’s daughter) wrote in a statement shared with Ars. “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.”

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