George Carlin’s estate has filed a lawsuit against the makers of an hour-long comedy special featuring an AI replica of the comedian, as reported by NBC News. The late comedian’s estate, including his daughter Kelly Carlin, filed the suit in a Los Angeles federal court last night. It claims the online media company that posted the video, Dudesy, violated the performer’s right to publicity and infringed on a copyright.
The video’s called “George Carlin: I’m Glad I’m Dead” and features an hour of new “material” by the comedian, who died in 2008. As AI replications go, it’s certainly not going to break any records. It’s audio only and, honestly, doesn’t even sound that much like Carlin. It sounds like a below average impression of the comedian. Also, it’s very, very bad. Carlin had an extremely unique voice and this video is mostly basic punchlines you can see coming from a mile away. There’s very little outlandish wordplay. There’s no righteous fury. There are, however, a lot of jokes comparing Donald Trump to poop.
“I understand and share the desire for more George Carlin. I, too, want more time with my father. But it is ridiculous to proclaim he has been ‘resurrected’ with AI,” Kelly Carlin wrote in a statement. She went on to write that the Carlin in that video is a “poorly-executed facsimile cobbled together by unscrupulous individuals.”
The estate’s attorney, Josh Schiller, went on to warn that AI risked becoming “a tool that allows bad-faith actors to replace creative expression, to exploit the already existing work of creators, and to get rich at the expense of others.”
Dudesey, the channel that created and posted the video, is actually run by the popular comedian Will Sasso and author Chad Kultgen. They didn’t write the material here. The AI was trained on thousands of hours of Carlin routines to create the facsimile, according to a report by NPR. Sasso and Kultgen are, however, named in the suit. The pair behind Dudesy liken the AI-created Carlin to an impressionist who impersonates a public figure.
Sasso suggested in a podcast last week that the AI version was no replacement for the real thing, going on to say that it was “interesting how heated people get about it.” The lawsuit calls the video a “piece of computer-generated click-bait which detracts from the value of Carlin’s comedic works and harms his reputation.”
The complaint seeks unspecified damages and the immediate removal of “any video or audio copies” of the hour-long special. So, if you’re curious to hear a pretty bad Carlin impression make obvious jokes about Taylor Swift, you had better get on that while you have the chance.
Of course, this is just the latest salvo in the ongoing war between AI algorithms and humans that create works of value. This issue was at the very heart of last year’s Hollywood writers’ strike and the recent spate of AI-created celebrities used to scam consumers. This is just the beginning. It’s an election year, after all, and bad actors have already used an AI replication of President Biden’s voice to urge New Hampshire residents not to vote in last week’s primary.