George Carlin’s Estate Settles Lawsuit Over AI Special

A settlement has been reached between the estate of George Carlin and the makers of a podcast who used generative artificial intelligence to impersonate the late standup comic’s voice and style for an unauthorized special.

Will Sasso and Chad Kultgen, hosts of the podcast Dudesy, and George Carlin’s estate notified the court on Tuesday of an agreement to resolve the case. Under the deal, an injunction will be entered barring further use of the video, which has already been taken down, and that it was made in violation of the comic’s rights, says Josh Schiller, a lawyer for the estate. Further terms of the agreement weren’t disclosed. Schiller declined to comment on whether there were monetary damages.

The settlement marks what’s believed to be the first resolution to a lawsuit over the misappropriation of a celebrity’s voice or likeness using AI tools. It comes as Hollywood is sounding the alarm over utilization of the tech to exploit the personal brands of actors, musicians and comics, among others, without consent or compensation.

“This sends a message that you have to very careful about how you use AI technology,” Schiller says “and to be respectful of peoples’ hard work and good will.” He adds the deal will “serve as a blueprint for resolving similar disputes going forward where an artist or public figure has their rights infringed by AI technology.”

Author and producer Kelly Carlin, daughter of George Carlin, said in a statement that “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.”

The legal battle stems from an hourlong special, titled George Carlin: I’m Glad I’m Dead, that was released in January on the podcast’s YouTube channel. In the episode, an AI-generated George Carlin, imitating the comedian’s signature style and cadence, narrates commentary over images created by AI and tackles modern topics such as the prevalence of reality TV, streaming services and AI itself.

The podcast is self-described as a “first of its kind media experiment,” with the show’s premise revolving around using an AI program called “Dudesy AI” — which has access to most of the host’s personal records, including text messages, social media accounts and browsing histories — to write episodes in the style of Sasso and Kultgen.

The podcasters approached George Carlin’s estate with an offer to take the video down and agree not to republish it on any platform moving forward, Schiller says. He adds, “We wanted to move on from this quickly and honor [Carlin’s] legacy and restore that by getting rid of this.”

The lawsuit alleged copyright infringement for unauthorized use of the comedian’s copyrighted works.

At the start of the video, it’s explained that the AI program that created the special ingested five decades of George Carlin’s original stand-up routines, which are owned by…

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