Family of late comedian George Carlin sues podcast hosts for AI impression


The estate of late comedian George Carlin is suing the team behind a podcast, claiming the hosts used artificial intelligence to create what his family described as a “macabre” imitation of Carlin for a comedy episode.

The lawsuit filed against hosts Chad Kultgen and Will Sasso, the latter from British Columbia, claims the team violated the domain’s copyright by using Carlin’s work to train an AI program to impersonate him for the film. Dude the hour-long episode of the podcast titled “George Carlin: I’m Glad I’m Dead.”

“Defendants’ AI-generated ‘George Carlin Special’ is not a creative work. It is computer-generated clickbait that diminishes the value of Carlin’s comedic works and harms his reputation.” , we can read in the lawsuit filed in California last week. .

“This is a casual theft of the work of a great American artist.”

This case is another example of artificial intelligence testing copyright laws.

Writers, from actress Sarah Silverman to Game Of Thrones author George RR Martin, as well as publications like the New York Times, filed suit against tech companies accused of using their work without permission to train AI programs.

Podcast never asked permission, says daughter

THE Dude special, released January 9, begins with a Carlin-like voice saying, “I’m sorry it took so long to get new material out, but I have a pretty good excuse. I was dead.”

In the remainder of the episode, the AI ​​character reflects on topics that have been prevalent in American culture since Carlin’s death in 2008, including Taylor Swift, gun culture, and the role of artificial intelligence in the society.

The special has since been hidden from the public on YouTube.

Kultgen and Sasso have not responded to the estate’s lawsuit in court.

A woman looks at his side.
“It’s so macabre. It’s so scary,” Kelly Carlin-McCall, pictured here in New York in May 2022, said of her late father’s AI-generated voice used in the Dudesy podcast. (Slave Vlasic/Getty Images)

In an interview with CBC As it happens Earlier this month, Carlin’s daughter told podcasters never contacted his family or asked permission to use his father’s image. She said the recording made her feel like she had to protect her late father and the pride he felt in creating his own comedic material.

“It’s not my father. It’s so macabre. It’s so scary,” Kelly Carlin-McCall said of the AI-generated voice.

“I don’t agree with that. I wish they would apologize and say, ‘Well, it was just a crazy experiment and it didn’t work and we apologize,’ and say abandon it.”

The show is hosted by Sasso, born in Delta, British Columbia, and Kultgen, an American writer and producer. An artificial intelligence personality named Dudesy writes and controls the experimental program and acts as a third host, chatting with the two humans throughout the show.

In the lawsuit, Carlin’s estate claimed the show made unauthorized copies of the comedian’s copyrighted work to train Dudesy to create the hour-long special. He also claimed the podcast used Carlin’s name and likeness without permission, including for Instagram posts promoting the episode.

Law does not keep pace with technology

Courts have seen a wave of lawsuits as AI, which is rapidly developing and easily accessible, makes it easy to recreate a person’s image.

“Historically, it’s common for people to impersonate someone or imitate someone’s style, and it’s always been allowed under copyright law,” said Ryan Abbott, a partner at the firm. Brown law firm Neri Smith & Khan, based in Los Angeles and specializing in intellectual property.

“But now you have AI systems that can do it so convincingly: someone might not be able to tell a synthetic person from a real person. It’s also something people do more and more without authorization.”

As usual, he added, the law has not kept pace with the development of technology.

“Because this is very new, the courts have not yet determined the extent to which these things are allowed,” Abbott said.

“It will be a long time before these cases come to court and, in the meantime, there is a lot of uncertainty about what people are allowed to do.”

LISTEN | Carlin’s daughter discusses a podcast featuring her father:

As it happens6:44 a.m.AI used to create comedy special about late comedian George Carlin

Sasso and Kultgen said they could not disclose which company created Dudesy because a nondisclosure agreement was in effect.

Carlin, 71, was widely recognized for his provocative, countercultural stand-up routines during his 50-year career. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, appeared on Tonight’s show more than 100 times and has received four Grammy Awards for his comedic work.

Carlin died of heart failure at a hospital in Santa Monica, California on June 22, 2008.

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