George Carlin A.I. Imitation Case Reaches Settlement | Smart News – Smithsonian Magazine

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Comedian George Carlin, who died in 2008, performing a standup routine in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in 1992
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The estate of the stand-up comedian George Carlin has reached a settlement with two podcast hosts who used artificial intelligence to impersonate the late entertainer for an unauthorized special.

Podcast hosts Chad Kultgen and Will Sasso agreed to take down the comedy special and never upload it again onto any platform, as Josh Schiller, a lawyer for Carlin’s estate, tells the Hollywood Reporter’s Winston Cho. They also agreed not to use Carlin’s “image, voice or likeness” for future content without the estate’s approval, per the New York Times’ Christopher Kuo.

Schiller declined to tell reporters whether monetary damages were included in the agreement.

“This settlement is a great outcome for our clients and will serve as a blueprint for resolving similar disputes going forward where an artist or public figure has their rights infringed by A.I. technology,” says Schiller in a statement, per Variety’s Gene Maddaus.

The hour-long comedy special in question—titled “George Carlin: I’m Glad I’m Dead”—was published in January by the “Dudesy” podcast. It began with a voice that introduced itself as a comedy A.I. named Dudesy.

“What you’re about to hear is not George Carlin,” said the voice. “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 A.I. algorithm had been trained on five decades of Carlin’s original stand-up routines. Using its version of the comedian’s voice, it performed a new routine that covered contemporary topics such as reality television, defunding the police, trans rights, mass shootings and A.I.

The comedian’s daughter, Kelly Carlin, called it a “poorly executed facsimile cobbled together by unscrupulous individuals,” according to Variety.

After the lawsuit was filed, representatives for “Dudesy” clarified that the special was not actually written by A.I. As spokesperson Danielle Del told the Times in January, it was written by Kultgen and then fed into an A.I. voice generator.

Earlier this week, Carlin’s daughter said in a statement that she was “pleased that this matter was resolved quickly and amicably” and “grateful that the defendants acted responsibly by swiftly removing the video they made.”

She added: “While it is a shame that this happened at all, I hope this case serves as a warning about the dangers posed by A.I. technologies and the need for appropriate safeguards not just for artists and creatives, but every human on earth.”

Carlin, dubbed the “dean of counterculture comedians,” died in 2008 at age 71. A “Tonight Show” regular and host of the first episode of “Saturday Night Live” in 1975, he was known for his dark, provocative comedy, which often criticized American culture and politics.

This isn’t the first time the “Dudesy” podcast, which describes itself as a “first of its kind media experiment,” has gotten in hot water for using A.I. to mimic celebrities. Last year, Kultgen and Sasso received a cease-and-desist letter from football quarterback Tom Brady’s lawyer after they released an episode featuring a falsified Brady performing a stand-up routine.

The Carlin estate and the “Dudesy” creators may have reached a settlement, but the debate about whether A.I. models trained on publicly available content violate copyright laws is ongoing. In September, a group of prominent writers, including Jonathan Franzen and John Grisham, sued OpenAI for training ChatGPT on their work. A few months later, a list of artists whose work may have been used to train an A.I. art generator began circulating online.

In January, a group of lawmakers in Congress introduced legislation that would “establish a federal framework to protect Americans’ individual right to their likeness and voice against A.I.-generated fakes and forgeries,” according to a statement shared with ABC News’ Leah Sarnoff.

“This is not a problem that will go away by itself,” says Schiller, the lawyer for Carlin’s estate, in a statement. “It must be confronted with swift, forceful action in the courts, and the A.I. software companies whose technology is being weaponized must also bear some measure of accountability.”

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