George Carlin Estate Sues Over AI-Generated Comedy Special 'I'm Glad I'm Dead'

The lawsuit called the creation of the comedy special a 'casual theft' of Carlin's work.

George Carlin's estate has sued the creators of an hour-long video depicting a version of him created with artificial intelligence, accusing them of stealing "a great American artist's work."

A voice that sounds strikingly like the late Carlin is heard in a new "comedy special" titled George Carlin: I'm glad I'm dead, uploaded by the Dudesy channel on YouTube earlier this month. The comedian died of heart failure in 2008. In a lawsuit filed in California Federal Court, Carlin's estate alleged copyright infringement and violation of his publicity rights.

A physical representation of Carlin does not appear in the video. Instead, it shows a series of AI-generated images of the comedian. During the course of the video, the voice addresses familiar topics such as religion and politics, as well as Carlin's death.

"Carlin, one of the most legendary standup comedians in history, dedicated his life to perfecting his craft, only for a couple of podcasters and a mysterious AI to slap together a special called "George Carlin: I'm Glad I'm Dead," without permission, and posted it to Youtube," the Carlin estate said in a statement to NBC News on Jan. 25.

Per the news outlet, the lawsuit stated, "Defendants' AI-generated 'George Carlin Special' is not a creative work. It is a piece of computer-generated clickbait 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." 

Dudesy is a YouTube channel run by comedian Will Sasso and writer Chad Kultgen, who put out a podcast of the same name every week. Unnamed individuals involved in making the video and developing the AI technology are also listed as defendants in the lawsuit. The video's intro explains that it was created using Dudesy's own AI tool, trained to emulate Carlin's style and presentation.

During his podcast last week, Sasso commented on the reaction to the video and said that the AI version was not a substitute for the original individual."I learned that AI cannot replace Geroge Carlin, and therefore, AI cannot replace me and my pal Chad," he said. "It is interesting how heated people get about it."

A statement from Carlin's daughter, Kelly Carlin, read: "I understand and share the desire for more George Carlin. I, too, want more time with my father. But it is ridiculous to proclaim he has been 'resurrected' with AI."

She continued, "The 'George Carlin' in that video is not the beautiful human who defined his generation and raised me with love. It is a poorly-executed facsimile cobbled together by unscrupulous individuals to capitalize on the extraordinary goodwill my father established with his adoring fanbase."

The estate's attorney, Josh Schiller, warned in a statement that AI could become "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."