The estate of the comedian George Carlin sued the makers of a podcast on Thursday after they claimed to use artificial intelligence to impersonate Carlin for a comedy special.
The lawsuit was filed against Will Sasso and Chad Kultgen, hosts of the podcast “Dudesy,” saying that they infringed on the estate’s copyrights by training an A.I. algorithm on five decades of Carlin’s works for “George Carlin: I’m Glad I’m Dead,” which was posted on the podcast’s YouTube channel, where it remains. The lawsuit also says they illegally used Carlin’s name and likeness.
The lawsuit calls for a judge to prevent “Dudesy” — which advertises itself on social media as “A.I., Podcast, YouTube show” — from using Carlin’s copyrighted works in the future and to require the podcast to destroy the episode’s audio and video.
Danielle Del, a spokeswoman for Sasso, said Dudesy is not actually an A.I.
“It’s a fictional podcast character created by two human beings, Will Sasso and Chad Kultgen,” Del wrote in an email. “The YouTube video ‘I’m Glad I’m Dead’ was completely written by Chad Kultgen.”
A spokesperson for Kultgen did not respond to a request for comment. Del declined to comment about whether the Carlin-sounding voice was generated by A.I.
Josh Schiller, a lawyer for the Carlin estate, said the lawsuit that was filed in Federal District Court in California would move forward despite the podcast’s backtracking of the A.I. claims.
“We don’t know what they’re saying to be true,” he said. “What we will know is that they will be deposed. They will produce documents, and there will be evidence that shows one way or another how the show was created.”
The lawsuit is part of an unsettled legal debate about whether training A.I. language learning models on publicly available written, visual and audio content infringes on the copyrights of artists and authors.
In July, the comedian Sarah Silverman joined a class-action lawsuit against OpenAI and another against Meta, accusing the companies of copyright infringement by using her work to train their A.I. models. A group of prominent novelists, including John Grisham, Jonathan Franzen and Elin Hilderbrand, filed a similar lawsuit against OpenAI in September. In December, The New York Times also filed a lawsuit accusing OpenAI and Microsoft, a major investor in OpenAI, of copyright infringement.
Carlin’s daughter, Kelly, denounced the “Dudesy” special.
“It is a poorly executed facsimile cobbled together by unscrupulous individuals to capitalize on the extraordinary good will my father established with his adoring fanbase,” she wrote in a statement.
“George Carlin: I’m Glad I’m Dead” begins with a voice saying, “Hello, my name is Dudesy, and I’m a comedy A.I.” It goes on to say, “I just want to let you know very clearly that what you’re about to hear is not George Carlin. It’s my impersonation of George Carlin that I developed in the exact same way a human impressionist would.”
“I listened to all of George Carlin’s material and did my best to imitate his voice, cadence and attitude as well as the subject matter I think would have interested him today,” the voice continues, before a different voice that sounds like Carlin riffs on current events, including homelessness, the police, mass shootings and artificial intelligence.