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GitHub in hot water over new AI coding assistant

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The Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC), a non-profit that provides numerous services for open source software projects, has announced it will abandon GitHub and has invited others to follow in its footsteps.

At the heart of the problem is GitHub Copilot, an AI-powered coding assistant tool released recently by the firm.

Copilot is built on OpenAI’s Codex and its goal is to suggest code and functions to developers as they type. It is powered by natural language text and source code from publicly available sources, including code in public repositories on GitHub. And that’s exactly the problem, the SFC says: GitHub used open source code to build a commercial, proprietary product.

The great migration

In a blog post (opens in new tab), two members for the SFC said that GitHub has positioned itself as a dominant force in the development of FOSS, by building an interface and social features on Git. That prompted developers to build a proprietary service, exploiting FOSS.

"We are ending all our own uses of GitHub, and announcing a long-term plan to assist FOSS projects to migrate away from GitHub," the duo said.

“While we will not mandate our existing member projects to move at this time, we will no longer accept new member projects that do not have a long-term plan to migrate away from GitHub. We will provide resources to support any of our member projects that choose to migrate, and help them however we can."

The two are not alone, either. As reported by The Register, Matthew Butterick, a designer, programmer and attorney, also raised the issue of Copilot’s violation of open source licenses.

"Copilot completely severs the connection between its inputs (code under various open-source licenses) and its outputs (code algo­rith­mi­cally produced by Copilot)," he wrote. "Thus, after 20+ years, Microsoft has finally produced the very thing it falsely accused open source of being: a black hole of IP rights."

Some people have also said that GitHub’s Terms of Service give it the right to use the hosted code to improve its own service.

GitHub did not respond immediately to our request for comment.

Via The Register

Sead is a seasoned freelance journalist based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He writes about IT (cloud, IoT, 5G, VPN) and cybersecurity (ransomware, data breaches, laws and regulations). In his career, spanning more than a decade, he’s written for numerous media outlets, including Al Jazeera Balkans. He’s also held several modules on content writing for Represent Communications.