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Lawsuit Accusing Copilot of Abusing Open-Source Code Challenged by GitHub, Microsoft, OpenAI

Saturday January 28, 2023. 10:34 PM , from Slashdot
GitHub, Microsoft, and OpenAI 'told a San Francisco federal court that a proposed class-action lawsuit for improperly monetizing open-source code to train their AI systems cannot be sustained,' reports Reuters:

The companies said in Thursday court filings that the complaint, filed by a group of anonymous copyright owners, did not outline their allegations specifically enough and that GitHub's Copilot system, which suggests lines of code for programmers, made fair use of the source code. A spokesperson for GitHub, an online platform for housing code, said Friday that the company has 'been committed to innovating responsibly with Copilot from the start' and that its motion is 'a testament to our belief in the work we've done to achieve that....'

Microsoft and OpenAI said Thursday that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the case because they failed to argue they suffered specific injuries from the companies' actions. The companies also said the lawsuit did not identify particular copyrighted works they misused or contracts that they breached.

Microsoft also said in its filing that the copyright allegations would 'run headlong into the doctrine of fair use,' which allows the unlicensed use of copyrighted works in some situations. The companies both cited a 2021 U.S. Supreme Court decision that Google's use of Oracle source code to build its Android operating system was transformative fair use.

Slashdot reader guest reader shares this excerpt from the plaintiffs' complaint:
GitHub and OpenAI have offered shifting accounts of the source and amount of the code or other data used to train and operate Copilot. They have also offered shifting justifications for why a commercial AI product like Copilot should be exempt from these license requirements, often citing 'fair use.'

It is not fair, permitted, or justified. On the contrary, Copilot's goal is to replace a huge swath of open source by taking it and keeping it inside a GitHub-controlled paywall. It violates the licenses that open-source programmers chose and monetizes their code despite GitHub's pledge never to do so.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.
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