George Carlin’s estate sues creators of AI fake comedy show

January 29, 2024

The AI-generated video impersonating the late comedic great, George Carlin, horrified fans while simultaneously demonstrating the advancement AI has made in voice cloning. Carlin’s estate is suing the makers of the video and insisting it be destroyed.

The hour-long comedy show, created by a fictional AI podcast host Dudesy, claimed to be an impression of George Carlin in homage to the comedian. The impressive, albeit unsettling, video was said to be the product of an AI trained on Carlin’s published material.

Carlin’s daughter was understandably upset by the video and his estate is now suing Will Sasso and Chad Kultgen, cohosts and creators of Dudesy. The lawsuit claims that using Carlin’s material without permission was a copyright infringement and violated Carlin’s right to publicity.

In response to the lawsuit, it has since emerged that the show was not written by an AI model.

Spokeswoman Danielle Del told The New York Times, “It’s a fictional podcast character created by two human beings, Will Sasso and Chad Kultgen. The YouTube video ‘I’m Glad I’m Dead’ was completely written by Chad Kultgen.”

Is that the whole truth? Either Dudesy did a great job writing jokes, which represents a big leap for AI humor, or we were duped and the passable jokes were written by a human. A big part of the legal argument hinges on this.

The substance of this lawsuit is much the same as those that OpenAI, Meta, Stability AI, and others are facing. Is it a copyright infringement when AI models are trained on copyrighted data, or is it fair use?

The funny thing is that, if a human Carlin fan had listened to all his shows and then stood on stage doing a great impression of him, there would be no legal case to answer. They could even charge the audience to listen to it as long as they didn’t use Carlin’s name to market the show.

The fact that an AI (allegedly) hoovered up his shows and did a passable job of imitating him is what lands this in the courtroom.

This might be the reason that Dudesy LLC, the company behind the show, now says that the show was not written by AI, but by a human who was inspired by Carlin’s work.

The lawsuit states, “In the Dudesy Special, Defendants state that Dudesy developed its hourlong George Carlin special “in the exact same way a human impressionist would.” This statement is false because the artificial intelligence model’s unauthorized ingestion of George Carlin’s entire life’s work is not analogous to how a “human impressionist” would have developed a work inspired by Carlin.”

I’d love to see the defendants bring in neuromorphic computer scientists to argue against this.

There are so many grey areas here that it’s hard to imagine a judge deciding against a free speech argument.

The idea behind the video is horrible but is it illegal? For now, the video has been made private on YouTube. We’ll have to wait to see if the takedown notice is eventually handed down by the judge.

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Eugene van der Watt

Eugene comes from an electronic engineering background and loves all things tech. When he takes a break from consuming AI news you'll find him at the snooker table.


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