GitHub Copilot is a new feature underway from GitHub to suggest possible code snippets for programmers while coding. But is it ethical?
@nutomic
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GitHub’s current CEO said that from their point of view, they see this as a part of “fair use”

Of course they will argue that, otherwise they would have to scrap the whole project. But it doesnt matter what they say, I think only the authors of the code can answer it. So far it looks mainly like a way to get around open source licenses, and use the code in proprietary projects. At the very least, they should make it opt in for devs to have their code analyzed.

However, there is nothing that prevents anyone from doing the same for free.

Absolutely not true, it takes some very specific knowledge and a team of developers to implement this. Something which can only be done by large companies.

Is anyone actually planning to sue them? I would definitely support that, because my own code is likely affected.

@SrEstegosaurio
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I completely agree. The opt-in thing will be the way if you want to do that, but they know that the participation will be insanely lower than just using the wohle code.

Ephera
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Well, they could’ve included only permissively-licensed source code. They generally have that information.

@Liwott
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You really mean seeing the project as a derivative of the code used to train the bot, right? In that case, even permissive licenses usually require citing the author. In fact, in Europe, even if not stated in the license, the author can never loses their right to attribution.

I guess to refine your solution, every work built with the help of copilot should credit “copilot contributors” à la OSM

Ephera
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Yeah, good point. To really get it right, they would have to paste each snippet with a full copyright+license header attached. If the dev then removes that information, they’re not at fault.

But yeah, it really feels more and more stupid, the more I think about it, to build a commercial tool that algorithmically reproduces copyrighted works with the copyright information removed.

@remram
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Lots of example of Copilot regurgitating code verbatim: Quake’s fast inverse sqrt (GPL), copyright headers or the entire GPL license, someone’s “about me” page… This should be enough to convince anyone that, even when they get it to stop proposing “obviously stolen” code (e.g. rename variables a bit, propose code without names in it), it is still all stolen code.

Dessalines
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It’s pretty unfortunate that the author of the article took a “who cares”, if its open source just let anyone use it as they wish, attitude. They seem ignorant of the history of why these strong copyleft licenses became necessary in the first place; to protect open source from corporate subversion and cooptation.

@AgreeableLandscape
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GitHub should be sued for a lot of things IMO

Yes.

Ephera
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I definitely feel like their fair use argument won’t hold in court.

When you tell someone about a song and show them a 5-second-snippet, that’s fair use.

But if you instead send someone that 5-second-snippet with the copyright information removed, and then even with the suggestion to include that snippet in their own song, that’s you infringing the copyright, not the person that innocently included your sample.

@YSU
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Yes.

@brombek
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This thing is not much more than a database of all the data it has seen. Far from “just like a human who reads various books”. If they want to make it useful for “humanity” they should release it under GPL - probably that would be complicated given all the mix of the licenses used though.

This is in essence similar to Clearview AI. Data/code is published with an specific intention, which is reflected by the license in case of code. It should not be used outside of that intention which for GPL is clearly stating that the author does not want to have their code used as part of a commercial software.

@ganymede
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deleted by creator

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