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George Carlin Estate Settles A.I. Copyright Infringement Claim

— April 3, 2024

The estate of George Carlin has reached a settlement with the owners of a comedy podcast who claimed to have used an artificial intelligence program to air a special featuring the late comedian’s voice and persona.

According to The Guardian, the owners and creators of the “Dudesy” podcast—former Mad TV comedian Will Sasso, and writer Chad Kultgen—agreed to remove all versions of their “A.I.” Carlin special from the internet, and will refrain permanently from using Carlin’s voice, image, and likeness in future Dudesy content.

Attorneys for both the Carlin estate and the defendants have expressed pleasure with the terms of the settlement, which have not yet been made public.

“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,” said Carlin’s daughter, Kelly Carlin.

The Guardian notes, while Sasso and Kultgen had initially said they used artificial intelligence to create the episode—entitled, “George Carlin: I’m Glad I’m Dead”—the men later claimed that the Kultgen had, at least, written the entire episode without the assistance of any A.I. programs.

George Carlin in 2008. Image via Wikimedia Commons/Flickr/author:”Bonnie.” (source: Listed as (CCA-BY-2.0).

However, nobody from Dudesy has clarified which elements of the podcast were produced using A.I., and which were original or satirical works.

“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,” Kelly Carlin said in a statement.

Josh Schiller, a partner at Boies, Schiller, Flexner who served as counsel for the Carlin estate, has since that Dudesy would likely have been liable for copyright infringement even if the episode’s script had not been written with A.I.

Schiller, adds the Guardian, said that an A.I. reproduction of Carlin’s likeness was still a violation of the estate’s rights—and that a disclaimer placed at the beginning of the Dudesy special was not sufficient protection against allegations of intellectual theft.

“There’s a big difference between using an A.I. tool to impersonate someone—and make it appear as if it’s authentic—versus someone putting on a gray wig and a black leather jacket,” Schiller said in reference to one of Carlin’s more iconic outfits. “You know that person is not George Carlin.”

“These kinds of fake videos create a real potential for harm because someone could, for example, just take a segment of it and send that around or post that on Twitter,” Schiller said. “Someone might believe that they’re listening to the real George Carlin, because they’ve never heard him before, and they don’t know he’s dead.”

Schiller further said that the case’s quick resolution should set some precedent for similar infringement claims being litigated in courts across the country.

“Our goal was to resolve this case expeditiously and have the offending videos removed from the internet so that we could preserve Mr. Carlin’s legacy and shine a light on the reputational and intellectual property threat caused by this emerging technology,” Schiller said. “This settlement is a great outcome for our clients and will serve as a blueprint for resolving similar disputes going forward where an artist or public figure has their rights infringed by A.I. technology.”


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