A comedy sketch featuring an AI likeness of George Carlin, a show which his family are explicitly against (as mentioned in the above article).

The writer of the show claims the following,

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

Which seems to be trying to avoid the legal question of whether or not posing as George Carlin is legal - but raises a question to me of who, in this situation, actually has the right to the deceased comedian's likeness? If the family wishes to sue this group for performing this 'impersonation', do they have a legal right to do so?

  • Any particular jurisdiction of interest? Jan 12 at 9:49
  • @TobySpeight I wouldn't rightly know where George Carlin's will was written, so not in particular no. Unless that information is actually available somewhere to add some additional important context to this question.
    – Zibbobz
    Jan 12 at 18:43

1 Answer 1


George Carling owned his personality rights, and this is a right that can be inherited (is not extinguished at death), at least in California. This is a state-intensive question, California being the most protective of an individual's personality rights in the US. We don't know for sure in this case, it depends on the details of his will, but from a legal perspective, the living individuals would sue as "The Estate of George Carlin". They have in fact sued (and won) others for copyright infringement.

The law in California says that

Any person who knowingly uses another’s name, voice, signature, photograph, or likeness, in any manner, on or in products, merchandise, or goods, or for purposes of advertising or selling, or soliciting purchases of, products, merchandise, goods or services, without such person’s prior consent, or, in the case of a minor, the prior consent of his parent or legal guardian, shall be liable for any damages sustained by the person or persons injured as a result thereof

  • 3
    There's a hideous advert running in the UK "starring" Albert Einstein. The smallprint states that the likeness has been licenced. I guess this applies to the UK/EU too.
    – Ken Sharp
    Jan 11 at 19:53
  • @KenSharp, do you mean Salesforce? Each page featuring Einstein has a footnote "Rights of ALBERT EINSTEIN are used with permission of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.".
    – Trang Oul
    Jan 12 at 7:10
  • 1
    I think Ken is referring to a series of adverts for "Smart Meters" that make dubious claims of money and/or planet saving.
    – MikeB
    Jan 12 at 13:29
  • That's the one, @MikeB
    – Ken Sharp
    Jan 12 at 14:30
  • Does this apply to impersonations and parody? I can't believe Trump would have given consent to SNL's impersonations of him, or the caricature on "Our Cartoon President".
    – Barmar
    Jan 12 at 15:58

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