When using AI such as ChatGPT, you’ve probably typed “rewrite this sentence with a different tone ……”. So, Microsoft has done the same.
A current complaint against Microsoft and GitHub says that the Copilot programming assistant in GitHub does some “rewriting” of “public code” and then outputs it to circumvent copyright charges.
The lawsuit was originally filed last November by four anonymous (“J. Doe”) plaintiffs, who claim that Copilot uses AI to train public code in a way that violates copyright laws and software licensing requirements, and ultimately formally “appropriates” other people’s code for itself. “Microsoft and GitHub sought to dismiss the case. Microsoft and GitHub tried to dismiss the case, but ultimately the judge found that the case needed more time and allowed the plaintiffs to add more details to their evidence.
GitHub reportedly introduced a filter called “Suggestions matching public code” in July of last year. When the filter is enabled, GitHub Copilot will “check” the “code suggestions” against the “public code” on GitHub for about 150 characters . If the “check rate” is too high, the output will not be made available to users.
The plaintiff argues that the filter is essentially worthless because it only checks for exact matches, and any minor modifications are not detected. GitHub tries to avoid copyright and licensing infringement by “rewriting” Copilot’s output to make it appear that the content is not a direct copy.
The complaint now lists a list of charges against Microsoft and GitHub:
Violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act
Breach of the Open Source License
Selling licensed material in violation of GitHub’s policies
Intentionally interfering with future economic relationships
negligently interfering with future economic relationships.
In response to these allegations, a Microsoft spokesperson vehemently denied them and responded, “We firmly believe that artificial intelligence will change the way the world builds software, leading to increased productivity; and most importantly, happier developers. We believe Copilot complies with applicable laws, and we have been committed to innovating responsibly with Copilot from the beginning. We will continue to invest in and advocate for the future of the AI-powered developer experience.”