George Carlin Estate Files Lawsuit Against Group Behind AI-Generated Stand-Up Special: ‘A Casual Theft of a Great American Artist’s Work’ ( )

George Carlin Estate Files Lawsuit Against Group Behind AI-Generated Stand-Up Special: ‘A Casual Theft of a Great American Artist’s Work’::George Carlin's estate has filed a lawsuit against the creators behind an AI-generated comedy special featuring a recreation of the comedian's voice.

GilgameshCatBeard ,

Good. I sincerely hope they win.

afraid_of_zombies ,

Internet: this is awful, of course your inheritors own your own image as stewarts.

Also Internet: I have a right to take pictures of you, your car, your house, or record you without consent. Edit it however I want. Make as much money as I want from the activities and you have no rights. Since if technology allows me to do something you have no expectation that I won't.

We are demanding that a public figure who is dead have more rights than a private person who is alive.

Mr_Dr_Oink ,

Im probably out of the loop, or just way too tired to work out what you mean.

Who is the "also internet" part roughly referring to? It reminded me of the sssniperwolf incident, and if i recall, the internet was not happy with that, so it doesn't make sense to me.

Im also not comfortable with the generalised use of "the internet" because by its very nature saying "the internet" is almost akin to saying "humans"

Every individual member of "the internet" is different and has different views, so pointing out a discrepancy and framing it like it shouldn't be there is a bit redundant.

Its like saying

Humans: like affordable housing

Also humans: raise interest rates to unaffordable levels.

There are two different groups here that are both humans. So its not particularly useful to group them together with the collective word when trying to point out a disparity.

afraid_of_zombies ,

Just many many times over the years I have seen little pervs on social media brag how they are citizen journalists and have every right to publish any photo that they could physically take. Since no one has a reasonable expectation of privacy in their own home.

Darkassassin07 , avatar

Ripped it from YouTube last night to add to my media server; curiously it's no longer available on youtube this morning... (at least the original Dudesy upload I'd grabbed, there's re-uploads)

SendMePhotos ,

Ah... How can I get that file, I haven't seen it.

Darkassassin07 , avatar

It's called 'George Carlin: I'm glad that I'm dead'. Have a look around, the original upload was removed, but there are others.

cashews_best_nut , avatar

I refuse to watch it - I love the original guys stuff so it wouldn't feel right.

However, is it any good?

Xeroxchasechase ,

It doesn't compare with any of George Carlin's performances, but as it is I liked it, it's quite ammusing. It's hard to imagine an ai came up with all the text and topics by itself, I'm convinced there's at least human editing there.

Darkassassin07 , avatar

Just finished it:

It's an interesting piece. I'm not sure I'd pay to watch it or any other AI comedy specials (didn't even watch it via YouTube to avoid ad revenue), but given free access I wanted to at least see what's up.

It both starts and ends with very clear disclaimers that this is not George Carlin but an AI impersonation of him. The voice is pretty close, but not quite right, though it matches his cadence quite well. Even without the disclaimers, it's pretty obvious to me it's not actually George Carlin.

The majority of the video is clearly AI generated art to match the current topic, mostly stills with a handful of short sections of AI people mouthing the words. I'm fairly sure the script and art were curated by a human, along with the overall editing of the special.

Quite a bit of highly political comedy in a very similar style to Carlin, but definitely doesn't hold a candle to his original/genuine work. It also discusses what he/it is, some of the controversy around it's existence, and the possible future of AI use throughout all professions, but mainly standup comedy roles and similar (like talk show hosts and news anchors for example)

Worth a watch, if you can keep an open mind and recognize there's a difference between the original and an artistic representation of him. I don't think the tools used changes that, especially with it clearly stated as being an impersonation.

carpelbridgesyndrome , (edited )
littlecolt , avatar

Good. Can't wait for Nintendo to sue Palworld, too. All this AI garbage needs to be put in it's place.

buzz86us ,

Why sue? I got through 2 minutes.. And the voice was not even close to George Carlin.. Like it doesn't get down his rasp, and sounds like 70s George Carlin

FlyingSquid , avatar

For the same reason that, for example, Kevin Hart would sue someone for releasing an "AI Kevin Hart" album that was a poor imitation of his comedy. It's appropriating his name and his artistry for publicity. Did the album itself make money? No, because they didn't charge for it. Did they make a shitload of publicity- thus generating money- for their podcast? You bet they did.

steelrat , avatar

I'll take Lawyers Maximizing Billable Hours for $500, Alex

Showroom7561 ,

What's the alleged crime? Comedy impersonation isn't illegal. And the special had numerous disclaimers that it was an impersonation of Carlin.

Sounds like a money grab by the estate, which Carlin himself probably would have railed on.

Maggoty ,

Where's the line? Were they parodying Carlin? Or just using his likeness? Can Fox News do this with Biden?

This is a far larger thing than just a comedy impersonation.

RagingRobot ,

If you watch the video it's very clear from the beginning that it's a fake voice and they used AI to write the jokes. It says flat out it's not George Carlin. There is no way anyone could be mistaken. Also it only kind of sounds like him.

Maggoty ,

And when someone edits that part off? What then?

Showroom7561 ,

What then? That person may be held liable for whatever crime you believe was committed.

The comedy special not only prefaced the show with multiple disclaimers, but also jokes about it during the special.

If someone wants to edit it to be deceptive, then that's on them.

The creator would have nothing to do with it.

4AV ,

Whether it's presented as real seems a reasonable line to me.

Fox News could not use it to mislead people into thinking Biden said something that he did not, but parody like "Sassy Justice" from the South Park creators (using a Trump deepfake) would still be fine.

Maggoty ,

Fox News could run it with every disclaimer out there and it would still get picked up by every other conservative channel and site as legitimate.

This is why likenesses are protected.

Showroom7561 , (edited )

Donald Trump, while president, was impersonated by thousands of people as comedy acts. Some people even had full time gigs doing it!

It's not a illegal when you are doing it for comedy. Pretending to actually be someone who you are not, is fraud, but that's not what we're talking about.

Mimicking someone's voice or putting on a costume in their likenesses doesn't make it illegal.

If it did, then Elvis impersonator festivals would be a mass crime gathering!

JasonDJ , (edited )

Not even for comedy but for art in general.

If we couldn’t impersonate likenesses in art, art would fucking suck. Think of every fictional character who ever met a well-deserved demise that was inspired by a real person.

Hell, look at The Crucible. Required reading when I went to high school. Literally an allegory for the red scare and McCarthy’s communist “witch hunts” going on at the time of its writing.

Not just that, but being critical of the rich and famous, especially high-profile politicians, is an incredibly important part of art. It’s practically the origins of modern theater. And inversely, arts criticism is an incredibly important part of politics.

FlyingSquid , avatar

Right of publicity has been a thing in American law since 1953. Not in every state, but in many of them, including California, where Will Sasso (who is responsible for this) lives.

You do not have a legal right to impersonate someone to publicize your podcast in California. That is exactly what he did.

Showroom7561 ,

So it was the fact that he used an impersonation to promote a podcast that's the issue, not the fact that there was an impersonation? Is that what the lawsuit is going after?

FlyingSquid , avatar

I think so. If you personally made "George Carlin AI Album #2" or whatever and put it on YouTube and didn't link it to some moneymaking venture, I doubt they would be suing. This is two comedians using a third, dead, comedian to generate revenue for their own comedy.

Showroom7561 ,

Even though the AI Carlin said numerous times that it was not the real Carlin?

It'll be interesting to see how this lawsuit develops.

FlyingSquid , avatar

Ford never said the singing voice was Bete Middler's in this case-

Showroom7561 ,

Such an idiotic ruling.

If someone can sing, with their own voice, then that's their singing voice. It shouldn't matter if it sounds like someone else, because it's not them!

It's idiotic because it essentially creates limits for talent and skill in an artistic sense.

There's a band called Greta Van Fleet who sounds exactly like Led Zeppelin, they've even done Zep covers, and it would be completely asinine to punish them (and fans) for having a certain sound.

Wogi ,

It's something the law isn't equipped to handle as written.

rottingleaf ,

And fear of things for which no law can be ready imagined in their extremes is how I got my current attitude to everything legal.

About the event itself - well, I suppose Carlin himself would be amused by the fact.

CerealKiller01 ,

What do you mean by "comedy impersonation" - parody, or just copying a comedian?

If I were to set up a music show with a Madonna impersonator and slightly changed Madonna songs (or songs in her style), I'll get my pants sued off.

If Al Yankovic does a parody of a Madonna song, he's in the clear (He does ask for permission, but that's a courtesy and isn't legally mandatory).

The legal term is "transformative use". Parody, like where SNL has Alec Baldwin impersonating Trump, is a recognized type of transformative use. Baldwin doesn't straight up impersonate Trump, he does so in a comedic fashion (The impersonation itself is funny, regardless of how funny Trump is). The same logic applied when parodying or impersonating a comedian.

lucidinferno ,

How is the AI impersonation of Carlin different from when Paramount used actors who looked like Queen Elizabeth or Barbara Bush, or human impersonators who sound just like the real person they’re impersonating (besides the obvious difference)?

I’m not saying Dudesy is in the right. Making an AI system sound like someone somehow feels different than an impersonator doing the same thing. But I don’t know why I feel that way, as they’re extremely similar cases.


It's because a person is directly doing it. It's not odd that our laws and mores exist for the benefit of people trying to do stuff.

Even comparing a photocopy to a forgery, at least the forgery took some direct human skill, rather than just owning a photocopier

lucidinferno , (edited )

I hear you, and I thought about that before posting the comment, but does method matter? Does human skill in something make it any more right, or does a computer being directed to do something make it any more wrong? The final product is essentially the same, no matter how it was achieved.

Whether I, unprovoked, physically attack someone or I command my dog to attack someone, I’m being held responsible for the attack. It’s not so much the method or the tool that was used as it is the product, because the act is wrong.

Better yet, to your point, whether I draw the Simpsons and sell that image or print an image of the Simpsons and sell it, it’s considered wrong without permission of Groening.

The question is: Is it wrong to impersonate without intention of deceiving, using any method? I’m not arguing for or against. Simply asking moral questions. It’s a quandary, for sure.

afraid_of_zombies ,

Programming isn't a human skill? Shit I am in big trouble.

I_Has_A_Hat ,

If I were to set up a music show with a Madonna impersonator and slightly changed Madonna songs (or songs in her style), I'll get my pants sued off.

Drag shows do stuff like this all the time with zero issue. Artistic freedom is a thing.

pickleprattle ,

This is the sort of thing a person rattles off on gut alone. "Artistic freedom" is not legally defensible - if your work isn't entirely unique, you need to fit within Fair Use in the US.

If you're in many places outside the US (like Japan) there is NO Fair Use carve-out to copyright (which is why Palworld may be more fucked than if they were a US company.)

Showroom7561 ,

If I were to set up a music show with a Madonna impersonator and slightly changed Madonna songs (or songs in her style), I'll get my pants sued off.

Wait, so America's Got Talent aired a crime with this Elvis impersonator?

Granted, the AI Carlin made it clear that he was NOT the real Carlin, but this Elvis is trying to be Elvis. 🤷‍♂️

Grimy ,

I think your Madonna example is completely fine as long as they don't call themselves Madonna and start uploading videos on YouTube with her name on it (like is the case here).

Madonna owns her name and trademark but not her tone of voice, style of songs or her wardrobe choices.

In the same way, The George Carlin estate doesn't own his speech mannerism or comedic style but they certainly own his name.



Publically exhibiting a disgusting object,

afraid_of_zombies ,

Oh like that law they are trying to pass in Texas now that outlaws porn?


In what way?

afraid_of_zombies ,

They are claiming porn is obscenity

Sorgan71 ,

A person's voice cannot be copywrited. I hope these people get countersued to oblivion.

FlyingSquid , avatar
wikibot Bot ,

Here's the summary for the wikipedia article you mentioned in your comment:

Midler v. Ford Motor Co. , 849 F. 2d 460 (9th Cir. 1988) is a United States Court of Appeals case in which Bette Midler sought remedy against Ford Motor Company for a series of commercials in the 1980s which used a Midler impersonator.

^to^ ^opt^ ^out^^,^ ^pm^ ^me^ ^'optout'.^
^article^ ^|^ ^about^

FlyingSquid , avatar

Fucking asshole bot. I never opted in.

phoneymouse ,

I agree it’s fucked up, but damn if it isn’t well done and pretty spot on. It’s crazy to hear about recent events from the voice and perspective of George Carlin. The special had me ready to pick up my pitchfork.

aesthelete , (edited )

I watched the whole thing and it was obviously written by someone and dropped through a text to speech engine (or "AI").

NikkiDimes ,

I do not believe for a second that this was written by AI. AI is getting a lot better at writing, but it still sucks when it comes to humour. It's great at going from A to B with a typical flow of thought, but it tends to struggle with the reverse, B to A, like a punchline and its setup. Since the court case seems to revolve around not the impersonation aspect but instead the supposed training of the AI on Carlin's works, it'll be interesting to find the truth in the matter.

aesthelete , (edited )

Before I watched it, I thought that it was perhaps sections written by AI and then stitched together afterwards.

After watching it, I think very little of it was actually written by AI, anything that "AI" contributed was thoroughly edited, and that most of it was completely written by a mediocre comedy writer.

There is a 0% chance that anyone typed anything like "Have AI George Carlin perform an hour-long special posthumously" into a computer and it spat that audio out.

There is exactly one bit that I think was even conceivably inspired by interactions with a chat bot and it's the one about replacing the vowels in people's names (which is coincidentally what a couple of YouTubers take as "proof" that it was AI generated in whole), and even that bit was likely AI-inspired but not at all AI-written.

EDIT: I wanted to add somewhere that I'm happy to find another skeptic. This seems like a modern "mechanical Turk" to me.

A thing that wouldn't surprise me at all is if this is some sort of elaborate stunt similar to something Andy Kaufman would do.

FlyingSquid , avatar

It's a ruse to drive publicity and generate revenue for a podcast. The album itself is free, but this was all about making money.

jafo ,

I've watched it on YouTube, it's pretty good. It starts "this is an impersonation of George Carlin". Wonder if a court ruling would prevent human impersonation.

General_Effort ,

I'd have sympathy if this was about a grieving family wanting to be left alone, but it looks more like the "estate" wanting money. At least they aren't going after total nobodies. (Will Sasso and Chad Kultgen)

Son_of_dad ,

George Carlin was all about lawsuits and money, great way to honor him. /S

Mango ,

It's nothing like Carlin.

It's theft of his work.

Pick one.

RealFknNito , avatar

But that would mean having principles instead of profiting off AI hysteria.

Mango ,

It's hilarious that I'm getting downvoted. 🤣

Scipitie ,

I read it like:

Mimic, pace of tone and body language are parts of the work.

That they don't hit the main part (I.e the humor) is just the icing.

Perhaps I'm top lenient though.

KairuByte , avatar

The problem with that is that you can’t protect “pace of tone” and “body language” under law.

Mango ,

Would you say Palworld is copyright infringement?

Scipitie ,

I'm just saying that I see that those two statements can exists at the same time without a huge mental leap - not that I agree with it - I apologize if I didn't make that clear enough in the first post!

Thorny_Insight ,

I think AI will win this fight. We're equiped with buckets to fight a tsunami.

AI of today is the worst it will ever be and it's already pretty fucking good. I expect that in the next 5 to 20 years most if not all the best content will be AI generated and I'm excited for it. I feel for the artists that will suffer because of it but I can't see how we're going to stop it or why we even should.

privatizetwiddle ,

The current trajectory of AI produced media is pointing toward personalized content. Every viewer would have their own exclusive shows and movies. This sounds great on the surface, but is actually mostly terrible.

Media today brings people together, by watching movies together or discussing the latest episode of a new series. With personalized content, not only will none of your friends have seen the show you're watching, but they won't even be able to see it; it lives only in your account on some proprietary streaming service and might even have been generated on-the-fly, never to be seen again.

Additionally, you can be certain that any company producing AI-generated content will put their own biases into it as much as possible. When streaming services push out competition in favor of in-house generated content, viewers will only have access to content skewed one way, further polarizing people based on which service they watch. With personalized content, those biases become much harder to scrutinize, because no two people can watch the same piece of content to compare opinions or analysis.

Finally, if you step back and consider the purpose of watching video content, it's mostly for entertainment. A moderate amount of varied entertainment can be healthy to unwind or pass the time, but an infinite source of "perfect" content encourages unhealthy media habits like binge-watching, and is unlikely to challenge the viewer's beliefs or support their mental health. Distress drives engagement, as social media has proven.

Once studios can produce fully AI generated movies, personalized media won't be far behind. Cheap AI generated personalized media is coming. If it takes hold, it'll push us all further apart.

I hope none of these predictions come to pass, but we'll see whether good intentions win over money this time.

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