U.S. programmer and lawyer files lawsuit against Microsoft

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Microsoft, GitHub and OpenAI are facing a class-action lawsuit over GitHub Copilot, an AI tool that works similarly to predictive text for programming.

GitHub Copilot was made available in June 2022 as an AI-powered programming assistant that uses OpenAI Codex to generate real-time source code and function recommendations in Visual Studio.

The lawsuit, filed by US programmer and lawyer Matthew Butterick on behalf of a proposed class of potentially millions of GitHub users, alleges that GitHub’s Copilot violates the terms of open-source licenses and violates the rights of programmers.

Since the Microsoft-owned GitHub trains Copilot on public code repositories written by numerous creators who have published their work on GitHub under certain open-source licenses, Butterick claims that using their work without attribution violates the rights of these programmers.

“It appears Microsoft is profiting from others’ work by disregarding the conditions of the underlying open source licenses and other legal requirements,” said Joseph Saveri, the law firm representing Butterick in the lawsuit.

People have also reported cases where Copilot inadvertently leaked secrets from public repositories and built them into the training kit, such as API keys.

In addition to the license violations, Butterick contends that the development feature violates GitHub’s Terms of Service and Privacy Policy DMCA 1202, which prohibits the removal of copyright-management information, the California Consumer Privacy Act, and other laws that give rise to the related legal claims.

Butterick said the lawsuit is the first step in “what will be a ‘long journey” of what he believes is the first – but not the last – class action in the United States challenging the training and production of AI systems.

The sources for this piece include an article in BleepingComputer.


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