A hot potato: The first class action lawsuit against a machine learning algorithm has been filed in federal court in San Francisco. Supporters are calling on millions of GitHub users to reassert their rights against Copilot, an AI that suggests new code by violating open source licenses and several other copyright infringement laws.
The plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit against the AI system behind GitHub Copilot, a feature designed by Microsoft and OpenAI to help programmers write better code faster. According to the lawyers, Copilot is trampling on the rights of “probably millions” of GitHub subscribers, (ab)using countless lines of code without proper permission and against the rules of many open source licenses.
Copilot is a machine learning algorithm developed by OpenAI – the same company behind the image generation system known as DALL-E – to suggest code and even entire functions in real time, directly from the editor of code or the user’s preferred IDE. GitHub Copilot was trained “on billions of lines of code” and is apparently capable of turning natural language prompts into coding suggestions in dozens of different languages.
The Copilot algorithm has been successful so far, with nearly 30% of new code hosted on GitHub written with AI assistance. Behind Copilot’s public endorsement is what lawyers describe as the systematic violation of the “legal rights of large numbers of creators who have posted code or other work under certain open source licenses on GitHub.”
The class action claims that a set of 11 popular open source licenses (MIT, GPL, Apache, etc.) require attribution of the author’s name and copyright, and Copilot has never done anything to all of this. Beyond proper attribution of authorship, the lawsuit says GitHub’s AI violated the service’s own terms of service and privacy policies, DMCA § 1202 (which prohibits removal of rights management information Copyright), the California Consumer Privacy Act and “other laws giving rise to related legal claims. »
The class-action supporters are bringing their lawsuit as the first step on a long journey, in what is expected to be the first attempt to legally challenge the formation and release of AI systems in the United States. And it won’t be the last, say the lawyers, because “AI systems are not exempt from the law” and the creators of these technologies must remain accountable.
“If companies like Microsoft, GitHub, and OpenAI choose not to follow the law,” the class action continues, “they shouldn’t expect us, the public, to stand still.” AI must be fair and ethical for everyone, otherwise it will simply become “another way for the privileged few to profit from the work of the many”.