Earlier in the month, a comedy special featuring an AI-generated George Carlin showed up on YouTube. The jokes weren’t that great and there were questions about using a dead person’s likeness without permission, and on Thursday, a lawsuit from the legendary comedian’s family made it clear that this isn’t a laughing matter.
The estate of George Carlin filed a suit in California over the “George Carlin: I’m Glad I’m Dead” comedy special produced by Dudesy. The lawsuit claims the special constitutes copyright infringement and was created to profit off of Carlin’s likeness without permission. According to the suit, the estate is seeking the immediate removal of the special and an unspecified amount for damages.
The lawsuit is one of the first to delve into the legality of using AI to create a person’s likeness without their permission.
Kelly Carlin, Carlin’s daughter, called the AI-generated version of her father “ghoulish” in an interview with Gizmodo earlier in the month.
“Dead people don’t get to have a vote, and that’s what’s particularly disturbing to me about this, They’re voting for him,” she said. “They’re deciding that this is ok to do and it’s a disrespect to his autonomy. It’s a violation of his humanity and his personhood, and, of course, his creative integrity. Ethically, it’s the stinkiest move I could imagine.”
The plaintiffs listed in the lawsuit are comedian Will Sasso, writer Chad Kultgen, and a tech company that has yet to be named so it’s referred to as John Does. Dudesy is a podcast Sasso and Kultgen host, but the two have collaborated with the unnamed tech company to create AI content for the show such as having an AI-generated Tom Hanks narrating a fake autobiography on episode 84.