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Carlin Estate Settles Suit Against ‘Dudesy’ Podcast Over Episode That Features Comedian Soundalike.


The estate of the late comedian George Carlin has settled its lawsuit against the Dudesy podcast and its hosts Will Sasso and Chad Kultgen for copyright infringement over an episode they released Jan. 9 titled “George Carlin Resurrected.” Under the agreement, the episode will be removed from the Dudesy’s podcast and YouTube feeds. The hosts have also agreed to not produce any other content in the future with Carlin’s voice or likeness.


Carlin’s daughter, Kelly, said in a statement that she was glad the matter was resolved quickly and amicably. “I am grateful that the defendants acted responsibly by swiftly removing the video they made,” she told Variety. “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.”


The Carlin family filed suit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles in January alleging artificial intelligence had been used by the podcast, which it is said failed to license any of the copyrighted materials.


“The Dudesy Special is an output generated by a technological process that is an unlawful appropriation of Carlin’s identity, which also damages the value of Carlin’s real work and his legacy,” its lawsuit says. “Thus, whether the Dudesy Special is indeed, from start to finish, the product of an artificial intelligence or simply relies on AI-powered tools to help a human better imitate George Carlin, the result is ultimately the same.”


In addition to the copyright infringement, the estate claimed the AI-generated Carlin podcast “may also deter younger audiences, who are unfamiliar with George Carlin, from engaging with his real work that is his legacy,” adding, “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.”


Just how much AI was, or was not involved, is not clear and it could be a factor in how the case moves forward. The podcast episode opened with a disclosure that features a computerized voice that says all of Carlin’s material was ingested by AI software with the result being a script that imitates his cadence and attitude.


But in a follow-up Dudesy podcast episode released on January 16 titled “A.I. Carlin Explained,” Kultgen told listeners that “anyone could have made [the Carlin episode] with technology that is readily available to every person on planet Earth right now.” But he also suggested that the special was not, in fact, written by AI but rather the technology was only used to create a Carlin-like voice to read the script written by humans, not AI.


The lawsuit comes as content creators face an uncertain future as AI is able to ingest their work and repurpose it, for what at the moment is no recourse.


“AI may be the most important technology invented in generations, and therefore requires a great amount of control and restraint to ensure that it is not misused,” Carlin family attorney Josh Schiller said in a statement to Law.com. “We risk it becoming a tool that allows bad-faith actors to replace creative expression, to exploit the already existing work of creators, and to get rich at the expense of others. This case is not just about AI, it’s about the humans that use AI to violate the law, infringe on intellectual property rights and flout common decency.”

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