Podcast Agrees To Ax AI-Generated George Carlin Special

(April 2, 2024, 11:07 PM EDT) -- The makers of Dudesy, a comedy podcast created and written by artificial intelligence, have agreed to take down a fake comedy special that "resurrected" George Carlin and to refrain from using the late comedian's image, voice and likeness without permission, Carlin's estate told a California federal judge Tuesday.

The podcast, co-hosted by actor Will Sasso and writer Chad Kultgen, published the episode "George Carlin Resurrected" in January, but Carlin's estate claimed in its lawsuit that none of the defendants had permission to use the comedian's likeness or his copyrighted materials.

Days later, the Dudesy defendants told the estate they had taken down the episode and removed all mention of it from YouTube, TikTok and their other social media channels, according to Tuesday's joint motion for entry of consent judgment and permanent injunction.

The parties then worked out a settlement Monday, in which the defendants agreed not to use Carlin's image, voice or likeness on their podcast or any other content online "without the express written approval" of Carlin's estate, the proposed stipulated consent judgment states.

"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," Carlin's daughter, Kelly Carlin, said in a statement Tuesday.

"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," she added.

Joshua Schiller of Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, who represents the estate, said the settlement will be a blueprint to resolve similar disputes where the rights of artists or public figures are infringed by AI.

"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," the attorney said in a statement Tuesday.

"The world has begun to appreciate the power and potential dangers inherent in AI tools, which can mimic voices, generate fake photographs and alter video," he added. "This is not a problem that will go away by itself. It must be confronted with swift, forceful action in the courts, and the AI software companies whose technology is being weaponized must also bear some measure of accountability."

The defendants could not be immediately contacted.

The estate and Carlin's longtime manager Jerold Hamza filed the lawsuit Jan. 25, saying the AI-generated special was 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. It is a casual theft of a great American artist's work," the estate said.

"In addition to the immediate fact of infringement, defendants' AI-generated 'George Carlin Special' may also deter younger audiences, who are unfamiliar with George Carlin, from engaging with his real work that is his legacy," it added. "Defendants must be held accountable for adding new, fake content to the canon of work associated with Carlin without his permission (or that of his estate)."

Carlin, known for his irreverent and boundary-pushing comedy, performed live stand-up, including the famous 1972 "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television" monologue, released comedy albums and wrote books, according to the suit. Just days before he died in 2008, Carlin was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, the complaint states.

Dudesy, which released its first episode in March 2022, first posted to its Instagram account an AI-generated image of Carlin teasing the release of its episode featuring an AI-generated "George Carlin Special" that was titled "I'm Glad I'm Dead," according to the complaint. Carlin's estate said that material was put together using thousands of hours of the comedian's original, copyrighted routines.

Carlin's estate and the other plaintiffs are represented by Joshua I. Schiller, Benjamin Margulis and Katherine L. Cassirer of Boies Schiller Flexner LLP.

Counsel information for Dudesy, Sasso and Kultgen was not immediately available.

The case is Main Sequence Ltd. et al. v. Dudesy LLC et al., case number 2:24-cv-00711, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

--Editing by Michael Watanabe.

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