Microsoft, GitHub, and OpenAI have requested the US court to dismiss a case accusing them of violating open-source licences and seeking $9 billion in compensation for GitHub Copilot. The companies claim that the lawsuit lacks evidence of damages and support of allegations, including examples of legal rights violations.
The plaintiffs in the case, led by lawyer programmer Matthew Butterick, claim that the companies violated open-source project licences and infringed on programmers’ rights with the release of GitHub Copilot. This neural network assistant generates and translates natural language into code in various programming languages using millions of lines of code from public GitHub repositories.
On the other hand, Microsoft, GitHub, and OpenAI claim that the allegations are baseless and that GitHub Copilot does not remove anything from publicly available open-source code but rather assists developers in writing by making suggestions based on information learned from publicly available code. They also highlight the fair use theory, which enables copyrighted information to be used in certain situations, and a 2021 US Supreme Court ruling that confirmed Google’s use of Oracle source code to build the Android operating system was fair use.
On the other hand, Butterick argues that every time Copilot generates an illegal result, the tool violates the DMCA three times by distributing licenced material without attribution, copyright notices, and licencing terms. He thinks that Microsoft, GitHub, and OpenAI have broken US laws and caused $9 billion in damage to the open-source community in the 15 months since Copilot’s inception.
The lawsuit against GitHub Copilot is set to be heard in May, and it remains to be seen how the court will rule. The open-source community is keeping a close eye on the case and its possible influence on using open-source code in creating artificial intelligence systems.
Recently a group of artists has launched a class action lawsuit against generative AI models Stability AI, Midjourney, and DeviantArt for claimed copyright breaches, and Matthew Butterick appears for the plaintiffs in this lawsuit too.