George Carlin Estate Sues Makers of AI Comedy Special for Likeness Theft and Copyright Infringement

“George Carlin: I’m Glad I’m Dead” made use of Carlin material without permission, lawsuit explains

George Carlin's American Dream
George Carlin's American Dream (Credit: HBO)

The estate of George Carlin is suing the makers of a ‘comedy special’ featuring a deepfake version of the deceased comedy legend that was purportedly created using “AI” software, alleging theft of copyrighted material and use of Carlin’s likeness without permission.

Carlin died in 2008 at age 71. The special, “George Carlin: I’m Glad I’m Dead,” released in early January by the self-described comedy podcast Dudesy, features several images of Carlin along with an hour of bad attempts to replicate the comedian’s style of comedy. It was widely panned upon release, and condemned by Carlin’s family.

The creators of “I’m Glad I’m Dead” say they used AI to scrape hours of Carlin’s comedy specials to create their facsimile. There is considerable evidence this claim is a falsehood but nevertheless the material in the special seeks (very poorly) to replicate Carlin’s comedy. And now in the lawsuit, filed Thursday in a California federal court, Jerold Hamza, executor of Carlin’s estate, break down how this infringes on Carlin’s copyrights and his likeness rights.

The lawsuit names Dudesy, podcast hosts Will Sasso and Chad Kultgen, and 20 John Does as defendants.

“Using Carlin’s original copyrighted works, Dudesy LLC (along with some combination of Will Sasso, Chad Kultgen, and the John Doe defendants) created a script for a fake George Carlin comedy special and generated a sound-alike of George Carlin to “perform” the generated script,” the suit says.

“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 suit continues.

The filing argues that “I’m Glad I’m Dead” is “not a creative work. It is a piece of computer-generated click-bait which detracts from the value of Carlin’s comedic works and harms his reputation,” adding that ‘it is a casual theft of a great American artist’s work.”

The lawsuit warns that it “may also deter younger audiences, who are unfamiliar with George Carlin, from engaging with his real work that is his legacy.”

The suit accuses the defendants of Violation of Rights of Publicity and Deprivation of Rights of Publicity according to California law, according to California law. It also accuses them copyright infringement.

The suit seeks a permanent injunction against “I’m Glad I’m dead” and its destruction to the fullest extent possible, as well as unspecified special, exemplary and punitive damages, court costs and any other damages the court sees fit to impose.

Read the filing here.


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