Microsoft, GitHub, and OpenAI have asked a San Francisco federal court to dismiss a proposed class action complaint that accuses the companies of scraping licensed code to build GitHub’s AI-powered Copilot tool. Launched in 2021, Copilot uses OpenAI’s technology to suggest lines of code directly within a programmer’s code editor. It was trained on publicly available code from GitHub, leading to concerns over its potential violation of copyright laws.
Allegations of Software Piracy
The lawsuit was filed last November by programmer and lawyer Matthew Butterick and the legal team at Joseph Saveri Law Firm. They claimed that the tool relies on "software piracy on an unprecedented scale." A second proposed class action lawsuit was later filed on behalf of two anonymous software developers with similar allegations.
Microsoft, GitHub, and OpenAI's Response
In a pair of filings submitted to the court, Microsoft-owned GitHub and OpenAI assert that the allegations in the lawsuit don't hold up. They argue that the complaint fails to show injury and lacks a viable claim and that the plaintiffs rely on hypothetical events. Microsoft and GitHub claim that Copilot helps developers write code and doesn't withdraw anything from the public body of open source code. Additionally, they argue that the plaintiffs are undermining open source principles by seeking an injunction and a multi-billion dollar windfall for software that is willingly shared as open source.
Upcoming Court Hearing
The court hearing to dismiss the suit will take place in May. Joseph Saveri Law Firm has not yet responded to a request for comment.
Microsoft's AI Plans
Despite the legal challenges, Microsoft has pledged billions of dollars to extend its long-term partnership with OpenAI and is rumored to be looking into bringing AI technology to Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook. It is also reported to want to add the AI chatbot ChatGPT to Bing. Microsoft, GitHub, and OpenAI are not the only ones facing legal issues related to AI. Butterick and Joseph Saveri Law Firm have filed another lawsuit alleging that AI art tools created by Midjourney, stability AI, and DeviantArt violate copyright laws. Getty Images is also suing stability AI over claims its Stable Diffusion tool scraped images from the site.
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