The settlement resolves a case involving the unauthorized use of celebrity likenesses by AI

Ben Wodecki, Jr. Editor

April 3, 2024

3 Min Read
 Comedian George Carlin appears on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" at the NBC Studios on October 8, 2003 in Burbank, California.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The estate of comedian George Carlin has settled a lawsuit over an AI-generated comedy special that used his likeness without permission.

Carlin’s estate filed a lawsuit in late January against a pair of podcasters who recreated the late comedian’s work using AI in a ““George Carlin: I’m Glad I’m Dead” special posted on YouTube. 

The video gained more than half a million views on YouTube. 

Carlin’s estate filed the lawsuit against Dudesy podcast hosts Will Sasso and Chad Kultgen alleging copyright and the violation of publicity laws.

As part of the settlement agreement filed in a California court, podcasters agreed to permanently take down the special and refrain from using Carlin’s image, voice or likeness “without the express written approval” from Carlin’s estate. No other terms were revealed.

“None of the defendants had permission to use Carlin’s likeness for the AI-generated ‘George Carlin special,’ nor did they have a license to use any of the late comedian’s copyrighted materials,” the lawsuit read.

The legal action argued the comedy special was “a piece of computer-generated click-bait” and harmed the late comedian’s reputation.

Joshua Schiller of the law firm Boies Schiller Flexner represented the estate. He told AI Business that the settlement will “serve as a blueprint for resolving similar disputes going forward where an artist or public figure has their rights infringed by AI technology.”

Related:AI Protections Secured for Animation Voice Actors

“The world has begun to appreciate the power and potential dangers inherent in AI tools, which can mimic voices, generate fake photographs and alter video,” Schiller said. “This is not a problem that will go away by itself. It must be confronted with swift, forceful action in the courts, and the AI software companies whose technology is being weaponized must also bear some measure of accountability.”

“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, daughter of George, said in a statement sent to AI Business. “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.”

Carlin passed away in 2008. But earlier this year, the Dudesy podcast published an hour-long comedy special featuring an AI-generated version of the late comedian's voice.

In January the comedian’s daughter said on Twitter: “These AI-generated products are clever attempts at trying to recreate a mind that will never exist again.”

Related:SAG-AFTRA Deal with AI Voice Cloners Angers Many Actors

Last year, unauthorized uses of AI to recreate celebrities emerged as a significant concern for striking Hollywood actors. 

Under new contracts struck by SAG-AFTRA, actors must be compensated for the use of their AI-generated likenesses in TV shows and movies.

About the Author(s)

Ben Wodecki

Jr. Editor

Ben Wodecki is the Jr. Editor of AI Business, covering a wide range of AI content. Ben joined the team in March 2021 as assistant editor and was promoted to Jr. Editor. He has written for The New Statesman, Intellectual Property Magazine, and The Telegraph India, among others. He holds an MSc in Digital Journalism from Middlesex University.

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