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Podcast sued for ‘AI George Carlin’ settles with comic’s estate

AI — or artificial intelligence — is increasingly being explored by the entertainment industry to generate content.

George Carlin poses with his book "All My Stuff" on December 11, 2007 in Los Angeles, California
George Carlin poses with his book "All My Stuff" on December 11, 2007 in Los Angeles, California - Copyright Getty Images North America/Getty Images/AFP/File Mark Mainz
George Carlin poses with his book "All My Stuff" on December 11, 2007 in Los Angeles, California - Copyright Getty Images North America/Getty Images/AFP/File Mark Mainz

Podcasters who controversially used AI to emulate the late US comedian George Carlin in a recent comedy episode have reached a settlement with his estate after family members sued.

The legal battle over the “Dudesy” podcast’s one-hour special “George Carlin: I’m Glad I’m Dead” highlights the rapidly growing role of AI in entertainment, which is viewed as a threat by many creatives and was a key issue in last year’s Hollywood strikes.

The terms of the deal, which was confirmed Thursday by Carlin’s estate, were not revealed.

But the episode in question has been removed from the “Dudesy” website and other platforms.

“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,” said Kelly Carlin, daughter of the influential counter-culture comic, referring to a video that accompanied the podcast episode.

“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.”

AI — or artificial intelligence — is increasingly being explored by the entertainment industry to generate content.

Proponents say it can be used to create content at lower costs than would be paid to human artists, and point to potential innovative uses of the technology.

But opponents say it simply draws upon the existing work of human performers, often without their consent or compensation, and point to moral dangers including its use to seemingly reanimate deceased artists in audio or even visual form.

Josh Schiller, a lawyer for Carlin’s estate, said he hoped the settlement “will serve as a blueprint for resolving similar disputes going forward where an artist or public figure has their rights infringed by AI technology.”

In a statement, Schiller pointed to recent high-profile cases including a fake robocall received by New Hampshire residents impersonating US President Joe Biden, and AI-generated nude photographs of celebrities. 

“This is not a problem that will go away by itself,” he said.

“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.

“Dudesy” is an experimental comedy podcast in which human hosts interact with AI to shape the format and content of each episode.

Its creators faced a similar controversy last year when they were threatened with legal action for an episode that imitated former American football star Tom Brady.

Stand-up comedian Carlin, who became famous for his biting anti-establishment brand of humor, and regularly appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Tonight Show,” died in 2008 at the age of 71.

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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