Lawsuit against GitHub Copilot AI dismissed

Antonija Bilic Arar

The claim for breach of contract of open-source license violations was not dismissed.

A US District Court judge in San Francisco has dismissed most of a class-action lawsuit that challenged the legality of GitHub’s use of code samples to train its AI-driven coding assistant, Github Copilot.

The suit was filed by Matthew Butterick, a lawyer and open-source programmer, and Joseph Saveri Law Firm, InfoWorld reports. It claimed that GitHub’s training of the Copilot AI on public GitHub code repositories violated the rights of creators who posted code under open-source licenses on GitHub.

The law firm made the suit and all the documentation public and claimed that it represented the first major step in the battle against intellectual property violations in the tech industry arising from artificial intelligence systems.

Despite Microsoft’s protestations to the contrary, it does not have the right to treat source code offered under an open-source license as if it were in the public domain.

However, the judge ruled that the plaintiffs had failed to establish that restitution for any unjust enrichment was available as a measure of damages for their breach of contract claims. The claim for breach of contract of open-source license violations against all defendants was not dismissed.

Software Freedom Conservancy, a non-profit organization that promotes open-source software, has been asking developers to quit GitHub for several years, and the launch of Copilot, an AI coding assistant, was the tipping point. They, too, considered GitHub to have violated its users’ intellectual property by training its models on their code.

In a blog post, the conservancy announced that it was ending all use of GitHub and will be offering a long-term plan to assist FOSS projects in migrating away from it.

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