F1 legend Michael Schumacher’s family win lawsuit over AI-generated interview

May 23, 2024

  • Michael Schumacher's family sued a magazine over an AI-generated interview
  • The 'interview' covered sensitive topics like his injury and family life
  • Schumacher's family received a settlement of €200,000 and a public apology

Formula 1 legend Michael Schumacher’s family has been awarded €200,000 in compensation from the publishers of Die Aktuelle.

This German magazine printed an AI-generated ‘interview’ with Schumacher in April 2023. Its front cover featured a picture of Schumacher, the headline “Michael Schumacher, the first interview,” and a strapline that read, “It sounded deceptively real.” 

The article contained supposed quotes from Schumacher that were generated by an AI program called character.ai.

deep fakes
The AI-generated Schumacher interview was posted in the German magazine Die Aktuelle

The artificial dialogue touched on topics such as Schumacher’s health and family life following his severe head injury sustained in a skiing accident in December 2013. 

Schumacher, a seven-time F1 world champion, has not been seen in public since the accident, and his family has kept his exact medical condition private. 

In a 2021 Netflix documentary, Schumacher’s wife Corinna emphasized the importance of maintaining his privacy: “We live together at home. We do therapy. We do everything we can to make Michael better and to make sure he’s comfortable, and to simply make him feel our family, our bond.”

The AI-generated ‘interview’ sparked outrage from Schumacher’s family, who announced their intention to sue the magazine. 

In response, Funke media group, the publishers of Die Aktuelle, apologized to the family and fired the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Anne Hoffmann. 

Bianca Pohlmann, managing director of Funke Media Group, condemned the article as “tasteless and misleading” and stated that it did not meet the standards of journalism expected by the publisher and its readers.

Family spokesperson Sabine Kehm confirmed the successful legal action against Funke Media Group, although she did not provide further details on the case. 

Non-consensual AI-generated material is controversial

OpenAI’s recent debacle with Scarlett Johansson showed how people won’t tolerate their identities being cloned or replicated in AI form.

There have been several controversial events in this vein, such as the estate of the late comedic great George Carlin suing the creators of an AI-generated fake comedy show that impersonated the comedian. 

The video, which was said to be the product of an AI trained on Carlin’s published material, was both impressive and unsettling. It also demonstrated AI’s immense advancements in voice cloning.

Carlin’s daughter was understandably upset by the video, and his estate is now suing Will Sasso and Chad Kultgen, co-hosts and creators of Dudesy, for copyright infringement and violation of Carlin’s right to publicity. 

In another related incident, Zelda Williams, daughter of the cherished American actor Robin Williams, spoke about someone using AI to mimic her late father’s distinct voice.

Robin Williams, known for iconic roles in movies like ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ and ‘Dead Poets Society,’ tragically took his life in 2014 at the age of 62.

The use of AI to bring people ‘back from the dead’ has raised serious ethical concerns, with a recent University of Cambridge study probing hypothetical situations where it could cause grave harm to people and society. 

The Schumacher case should make people and publishers think twice before using sensitive AI-generated material.

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Sam Jeans

Sam is a science and technology writer who has worked in various AI startups. When he’s not writing, he can be found reading medical journals or digging through boxes of vinyl records.


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