An AI comedy duo has allegedly used George Carlin's voice without permission from his family or estate — and his living progeny is not at all pleased.
The "comedy special," titled "George Carlin: I'm Glad I'm Dead," was posted to YouTube and on other platforms by an AI comedy troupe that calls itself Dudesy.
Founded by Will Sasso of "Mad TV" and podcaster Chad Kultgen, the "dudes" in question have an active Discord, a Patreon, and some branded alcoholic beverages to their name — but did not, according to Carlin's adult daughter Kelly, get consent from the iconic comedian's relatives to create their hour-long imitation.
"We were not contacted by the company that has generated this AI product," the late comedian's daughter told Futurism in an email. "I believe they should take his name off of the product because it was not created or generated by him. The performer and author of this content is Dudesy, not George Carlin."
To be fair, Dudesy did include a disclaimer at the start of the video that the content was an "impersonation" of the potty-mouthed comedian akin to renditions by "human impressionist[s]."
"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," a seemingly AI-generated voice at the beginning of the video says. "So think of it like Andy Kaufman impersonating Elvis or like Will Ferrell impersonating George W. Bush."
While human impersonations or parodies of public figures have been considered fair use for decades now, the lines are much blurrier when it comes to AI. As of right now, the courts haven't yet decided whether AI systems can use copyrighted works under the so-called "fair use" legal doctrine, though a showdown between OpenAI and The New York Times may well set the precedent on that matter.
In her email conversation with us, Carlin added that she and her father's estate are researching their own legal avenues.
"I, and the representative of my father‘s estate are now actively looking into protecting my father‘s source material from being used by AI machines to create content in the future," she wrote. "As you are familiar, I’m sure there are many others trying to figure out how to do this too."
Like Robin Williams' kid before her, the comedic pioneer's daughter went on to blast AI voice cloning resurrections in general.
"We are clearly at the beginning of a new era of the lack of respect and autonomy of artists by corporations and other entities that want to use source material without permission," Carlin continued. "The art form of comedy is such a unique expression of the human mind and journey. This bastardization of existing comedic material feels like a very sad day for the art form, and all human expression."
Carlin indicated that she and her dad's late talent manager Jerry Hamza own the comedian's intellectual property, which could be significant in any legal action against Dudesy. When attempting to contact the duo, Futurism was unable to find any emails or phone numbers for their joint venture or each man individually.
Beyond the legalese, however, it seems like very bad form to use a beloved figure's voice and style without getting the family's blessing — though of course, many regressive-minded comedy fans would say that permission is beside the point.
More on anti-AI action: SAG-AFTRA Inks Controversial Deal to Allow AI-Generated Voice Acting
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