On June 22, GitHub Copilot, the artificial intelligence tool to help programmers through code completion, ceased to be in testing and became commercially available. That did nothing but reactivate the legal controversy —which was already raised when GitHub announced the existence of the project— around the possible violations of copyright that this could cause.
La Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) is a non-profit organization with a mission to promote free software. It is not so well known by the general public como la Free Software Foundation, la Linux Fondation o la Open Source Initiative, pero many famous free software projects are members of the SFC and grow under its technical and legal protection (GIT, BusyBox, Inkscape, Godot, QEMU, phpMyAdmin, Samba, Wine…).
And now, this organization has publicly announced your decision to stop using Microsoft’s GitHub as a platform hosting of the repositories of your projects. Even more: will actively encourage other software developers to do the same.
In a recent post on their corporate blog, two SFC representatives stated that, over the past decade, GitHub has managed to gain a dominant role in the field of version control and repository hosting. In fact, for many users ‘using GitHub’ is almost a synonym for ‘using Git’.
But, according to the SFC, this predominant position has been used by Microsoft to make the voluntary work of the developers of free projects end up contributing, involuntarily, to the development of a commercial project. From GitHub Copilot, more specifically… and the decision to launch it as a paid product has been the last straw:
“We are going to end our use of GitHub and prepare a long-term plan to help free software projects migrate away from GitHub.”
20 years later, Microsoft is guilty of what it accused free software of
Thus, the SFC has added to its website a section entitled ‘Give Up on GitHub’, in which they ask free software developers to voluntarily switch to another platform, arguing that GitHub behavior (with Copilot, but also on other topics) has proven to be worse than its competition.
“We don’t think Amazon, Atlassian, GitLab, or any other for-profit platform is perfect. But if we compare GitHub’s behavior to its rivals, it’s clear that theirs is much worse, not to mention that GitHub also has a history of ignoring and belittling community complaints.
GitHub claims to have approximately 83 million users and host more than 200 million repositories.
The SFC points out that, as Microsoft itself has acknowledged, It has been the code from the public GitHub repositories (most of them under free licences) that has allowed Copilot’s AI to be trained. And they accuse her of having done just that by deliberately ignoring the legal consequences of a potential massive violation of the source code licenses.
“Copilot completely severs the connection between its inputs (code subject to various open source licenses) and its outputs (code produced algorithmically by Copilot). So, after more than 20 years, Microsoft has finally caused the very thing that falsely accused the open source movement: of being a black hole for intellectual property rights”.
Via | The Register