The estate of comedian George Carlin sued the creators of a podcast Thursday after they claimed to have used artificial intelligence to impersonate Carlin for a comedy special.
The lawsuit was filed against Will Sasso and Chad Kultgen, hosts of the “Dudesy” podcast, saying they infringed the estate’s copyright by training an artificial intelligence algorithm on five decades of Carlin’s works to “George Carlin: I’m glad I’m dead”, which was published on the podcast’s YouTube channel, where it remains. The lawsuit also says they illegally used Carlin’s name and likeness.
The lawsuit demands that a judge stop “Dudesy,” who advertises on social media as “AI, Podcast, YouTube show,” from using Carlin’s copyrighted works in the future and require the podcast to destroy the audio and video of the episode.
Sasso spokesperson Danielle Del said Dudesy is not actually an AI
“He is a fictional podcast character created by two humans, Will Sasso and Chad Kultgen,” Del wrote in an email. “The ‘I’m Glad I’m Dead’ YouTube video was written entirely by Chad Kultgen.”
A Kultgen spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. Del declined to comment on whether the Carlin-sounding voice was generated by AI.
Josh Schiller, an attorney for Carlin’s estate, said the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in California would move forward despite the podcast backtracking on AI’s claims.
“We don’t know what they say is true,” he said. “What we will know is that they will be deposed. They will produce documents and there will be evidence that shows one way or another how the program was created.”
The lawsuit is part of a pending legal debate over whether training AI language learning models on publicly available written, visual and audio content infringes the copyrights of artists and authors.
In July, comedian Sarah Silverman joined a class-action lawsuit against OpenAI and another against Meta, accusing the companies of copyright infringement by using her work to train their AI models. A group of prominent novelists, including John Grisham, Jonathan Franzen, and Elin Hilderbrand, filed a similar lawsuit against OpenAI in September. In December, The New York Times also filed a lawsuit accusing OpenAI and Microsoft, a major investor in OpenAI, of copyright infringement.
Carlin’s daughter Kelly denounced the “Dudesy” special.
“It is a poorly executed facsimile, cobbled together by unscrupulous individuals to capitalize on the extraordinary goodwill my father established with his adoring fan base,” he wrote in a statement.
“George Carlin: I’m Glad I’m Dead” begins with a voice saying, “Hello, my name is Dudesy and I’m a comedy AI.” He goes on to say, “I just want you to know very clearly that what you are about to hear is not George Carlin. “It’s my personification of George Carlin that I developed in exactly the same way that a human impressionist would.”
“I listened to all of George Carlin’s material and did my best to imitate his voice, cadence and attitude, as well as the topic I think he would have been interested in today,” the voice continues, before a different voice that sounds like Carlin riffs on current events, including homelessness, the police, mass shootings, and artificial intelligence.