At the end of last month, Microsoft introduced GitHub Copilot, a service that allows programmers tools to write code more easily. However, it seems Copilot is not welcome by some programmers, who have rejected the service. Some going as far as to say the GitHub tool breaches copyright.
“GitHub Copilot understands significantly more context than most code assistants. So, whether it’s in a docstring, comment, function name, or the code itself, GitHub Copilot uses the context you’ve provided and synthesizes code to match. Together with OpenAI, we’re designing GitHub Copilot to get smarter at producing safe and effective code as developers use it.”
One of the main criticisms regarding Copilot is it goes against the ethos of open source because it is a paid service. However, Microsoft would arguably justify this by saying the resources needed to train the AI are costly. Still, the training is problematic for some people because they argue Copilot is using snippets of code to train and then charging users.
Hi. I know you’re excited about copilot.
GitHub scraped your code. And they plan to charge you for copilot after you help train it further.
It’s truly disappointing to watch people cheer at having their work and time exploited by a company worth billions.
— Brian P. Hogan (@bphogan) July 2, 2021
Fair or Not?
Honestly, the negative response towards GitHub Copilot by some users is failing to land with me. If code that has been generated by machine learning even something that could be copyrighted? It is also unclear whether Copilot replicates the training snippets exactly of not.
In other words, it should be fine for Copilot to surface code snippet suggestions to users without breaching copyright… again, if any copyright should exist in the first place.
Let’s not forget some people are still annoyed by Microsoft buying GitHub for $7bn, while the company’s increased closeness to OpenAI has also caused plenty of grudges to be formed. It will be interesting to see how Microsoft responds to the latest round of criticism.
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