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15 Nov 2022

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A Lawsuit Has Been Filed Against OpenAI and Microsoft over GitHub Copilot

A patent troll has now launched a suit against OpenAI and Microsoft, alleging that the two companies 'join machine learning tool GitHub Copilot infringes on patents owned by Parallel Iron.

The company claims both companies infringe on their complex event processing engine patent. The suit demands both companies stop using GitHub Copilot, issue an apology for infringing on the patent, pay damages, and cover legal fees.

GitHub Copilot uses technology from OpenAI to help generate code and speed up software development. According to Microsoft, it has analyzed 'billions of lines of public code written by others.

Earlier this month, developer and lawyer Matthew Butterick said he has partnered with the Joseph Saveri Law Firm to investigate whether Copilot has infringed on the intellectual property rights of other developers by plagiarizing their code and failing to attribute its sources correctly.

A GitHub Copilot user could unwittingly cause serious legal problems. "Copilot leaves copyleft compliance as an exercise for the user. Users likely face growing liability that only increases as Copilot improves," Bradley M. Kuhn of Software Freedom Conservancy said.

"Users currently have no methods besides serendipity and educated guesses to know whether Copilot's output is copyrighted by someone else."

Copilot is powered by a learning AI system created by OpenAI and licensed to Microsoft. Codex currently suggests how to finish a line of code, but Microsoft has shown its capacity for larger, more complicated blocks of code, like a full-blown function.

According to attorneys at the Joseph Saveri Law Firm, there has now been a class-action lawsuit against Microsoft, GitHub, and OpenAI filed in a US federal court in San Francisco.

The claimants allege that, in addition to violating the attribution requirements of open-source licenses, the defendants violated:

  • DMCA § 1202, which for­bids the removal of copy­right-man­age­ment infor­ma­tion.
  • The Cal­i­for­nia Con­sumer Pri­vacy Act; GitHub's terms of ser­vice and pri­vacy poli­cies.
  • Laws, giv­ing rise to related legal claims.

Claimants further acknowledge that these violations are the beginning of what is likely to be a long and winding road. According to Lawyer Matthew Butterick in a published post:

"As far as we know, this is the first class-action case in the US chal­leng­ing the train­ing and out­put of AI sys­tems. It will not be the last. AI sys­tems are not exempt from the law.

Those who cre­ate and oper­ate these sys­tems must remain account­able. If com­pa­nies like Microsoft, GitHub, and OpenAI choose to dis­re­gard the law, they should not expect that we, the pub­lic, will sit still.

AI needs to be fair & eth­i­cal for every­one. If not, it can never achieve its vaunted aims of ele­vat­ing human­ity. It will just become another way for the priv­i­leged few to profit from the work of the many."

Also Read, Izuma Networks Takes over Pelion's Device Management Arm

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