George Carlin Estate Settles Lawsuit Over AI-Generated Comedy Special

submitted by Stopthatgirl7 edited…

George Carlin‘s estate has settled a lawsuit over an AI-generated imitation of the late comedian, with the creators agreeing to remove it from their YouTube channel and podcast feed.

In January, the Dudesy podcast released “George Carlin: I’m Glad I’m Dead,” which purported to be an hour-long special created by artificial intelligence. Carlin died in 2008, but the special featured a sound-alike voice doing Carlin-esque material on contemporary topics like trans rights and defunding the police.

The estate sued, alleging that the special violated the estate’s copyrights and its publicity right to Carlin’s name, image and likeness.

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Mossy Feathers , edited

I looked up the transcript for it out of curiosity. The jokes aren't terrible I guess; they read a lot like the Carlin bits I'm familiar with. However, I got to the AI part and was like, "nah, they're pushing it too hard." I couldn't see the complaint until I got to that bit, and then I could understand why it made his estate uncomfortable.

If they'd used the AI bit to poke fun at themselves and talk about how AI's even replacing dead people *without* trying to push AI as the future, then I'd be confused as to why the Carlin estate is upset. However, right now AI primarily benefits the rich, so pushing AI as the future of humanity is contradictory even within the context of fake-Carlin routine because it goes against his takes about rich people ruining everything.


IMHO, they should have not settled, and won a lawsuit for precedent, this is going to keep happening.


My understanding is that this is what’s happening everywhere. Instead of establishing some precedent, every party is just cashing out with licence agreements or settlements. Basically hedging their bets it seems.

Meanwhile the game plan from big AI is obviously to keep burning cash until they rule the world (or die).


I tried listening to it. Didn't last more than 5m. It was horrible. Like a bad Vegas Seinfeld impersonator.

Best thing to come out of the lawsuit is to hopefully make people think twice before pulling a similar stunt.


And every chode out there was pretending it was good, too.

Almost seemed



I have a few questions, and I am honestly asking from sheer lack of knowledge on how to even look this up.

From what I have read, you don't exactly have copyright of your own likeness, but rather rights to how you can restrict its use for privacy/publicity/commercial reasons. But that applies to you alone. Does your next of kin inherit the rights from you automatically? Can you convey those rights after death? Do people actually do that?

I'm genuinely interested to know if this case was even possible. It's definitely in poor taste, but despite that it is an interesting experiment and admittedly a good mimicry. Should we expect more like this, or less?


The law regarding likeness is much less unified than copyright. It even differs significantly between US states, not to mention internationally. So there's no simple answers to these questions.

Here's the WP page on this:

I'm no expert, so I don't know if it's good. I'd take it with a grain of salt.

As to the case, here's an analysis by copyright lawyer Aaron Moss:


Thank you for the read. I figured this one was a thorny issue without even considering the locale/jurisdiction aspect.

From the looks of it, this is an issue that is likely to have to be fought in court to deliver some precedent or legislation will have to directly target this... And that's just the American side.

I'm honestly glad these comedians and the Carlin family were able to come to a reasonable settlement, so that the Carlins themselves didn't have to be part of this eventual circus. I feel like George himself would find this scenario pointless and loathsome, and I only wish I could hear the real him talk about it haha.


Good, fuck 'em. Stop ressurecting dead people with shitty inaccurate software hacks.

I know the Internet hates AI anything, but I thought this was a fun creative project with a very strong upfront message that it was only an experiment for fun. It obviously lacked his creative genius and sounded like a Family Dollar Corge Garlin knockoff, but for fuck sake, suing people for using someone's likeness that is dead is a shitty precedent.

Shdwdrgn , edited

I feel like I want to agree with you, but on the other hand what would happen if everyone were free to use any dead celebrity's likeness any way they wanted? Keeping in mind that Sinéad O'Connor's estate just sued Trump for using her music without permission at a rally that goes against everything she stood for, if we weren't allowed to keep a tight reign on these things then it would unleash some truly unspeakable horrors. For example, what if a speech from MLKJ were allowed to be twisted by white supremacists to spread hatred? It could get out of hand so quickly and the good deeds done by these people could be white-washed. I think we just need to accept certain restrictions in order to safeguard the strongest voices that speak up for the rest of us.


This was quite obviously a parody which is protected speech in the US. There is no ambiguity on this, the creation was not some pure AI generation, it was output based on the parameters set by the Dudesy guys, one of whom is well known comedian Will Sasso of MadTV fame.

The anti-AI circlejerk crowd is leaning hard on the wrong example to attack, and the Carlin family has this all wrong.

People don't seem interested in thinkng beyond a knee jerk reaction against anything labeled AI.

FireTower , edited

I was under the impression that it was more so a satire than a parody, which have less protection. (Key difference being one is a commentary other topics vs being a commentary on the original works) Then again I haven't watched the full 60 minute video.


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dezmd , edited

Well, only based on this reply, you certainly aren't making a case for yourself being rational and thoughtful, by taking that last line as an attack rather than a commentary on the general state of reactions on this ongoing subject of discussion.

Put your pitchfork away. This isnt reddit, no need to instantly go with the minute of hate as a default state of reaction.


You shouldn't own anything well after your death, including your likeness. By your logic we couldn't make films about Cleopatra or use Shakespeare's work.


Hey if a fscking mouse can be copyrighted for 100 years, why shouldn't the work of real people also be protected? Of course neither of the examples your cited would still have copyrights even under those extreme terms.


I don't think the Mouse should have that copyright either. I'm not a total copyright abolitionist, but the time needs to be much shorter like patents. And I think likenesses should fall into the same category.


I do actually agree with that, these lengths of times are pretty ridiculous.


Difference is, the mouse can’t die, a person can. But the mouse can be continued by anyone…

FireTower , edited

Imagine if someone made a video of your deceased father with "I'm Glad I'm Dead" in the title where his voice espouses political stances you or him quite probably disagree with.

It's a worse precedent to set the inversion. Imagine a world where once you die mega corps get to use your likeness to advertise rewriting any legacy you might have had into being "the McDonalds guy".


Imagine imagining imaginary images of imagination. The Carlin thing was unique and creative. This doom and gloom stuff feels a lot like an affront to his impactful comedic legacy.

"Pass more laws and use the government's power to suppress scientific advancement, or sue everyone, all to protect the wealth legacy of a famous/rich/important dead person's family" does not sound like the kind of reaction Carlin would lean into at all.

tobogganablaze , edited

It was a poor imitation done by a software. They didn't even bother copying the work themselves. This is the very opposite of creative.

If you've ever tried to do voice synthesis you'd realize this was not plug and play. Also if it was written by a LLM, which I doubt based on my experience training them, they spent a lot of effort and time getting it to match his patterns of speech.

From a purely technological view, it was a creative effort and not something cobbled together in an afternoon on a whim.


I thought the special was hand written and performed, the only "AI" was the deep faked voice and face.

Every article seems to be intentionally misrepresenting it as AI written, at least in the title and synopsis.

Still a shitty thing to do without his estate's prior approval, but very very different than its being represented. All because "AI" is the new boogeyman


What is missing is that the podcast originally claimed it was entirely written and generated by AI. They only changed the story when they were sued.