GitHub developer files class action lawsuit against Microsoft’s open-source ‘piracy’ Copilot project

Kareem Anderson

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Microsoft’s GitHub partnership with OpenAI resulting in autonomous code building project dubbed Copilot faces a class action lawsuit before it can become widespread tool.

Class action litigators from the Joseph Saveri Law Firm in California filed a lawsuit on behalf of its client Matthew Butterick, who is also a lawyer and programmer, against Microsoft, GitHub and OpenAI in the US federal court of San Francisco.

Butterick and company claim that Microsoft’s participation in the Copilot project pirates open-source development by violating not only GitHub’s own policies but goes further and violates the California Consumer Privacy Act and DCMA 1202 which addresses False Copyright Management Information.

By train­ing their AI sys­tems on pub­lic GitHub repos­i­to­ries (though based on their pub­lic state­ments, pos­si­bly much more) we con­tend that the defen­dants have vio­lated the legal rights of a vast num­ber of cre­ators who posted code or other work under cer­tain open-source licenses on GitHub. Which licenses? A set of 11 pop­u­lar open-source licenses that all require attri­bu­tion of the author’s name and copy­right, includ­ing the MIT license, the GPL, and the Apache license. (These are enu­mer­ated in the appen­dix to the com­plaint.)

The lawsuit comes as a first step for Butterick and the Joseph Saveri Law Firm as they plan to amend their complaint to “add other parties and claims,” to which they will have millions of GitHub users to vouch for if indeed Microsoft, GitHub and Open AI are found to be in violation.