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Microsoft-Led GPL Violations and the FSF

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Legal
  • GitHub is my copilot [Ed: Microsoft is attacking the GPL using the guise or excuse of "HEY HI" (plagiarism, copy-paste)]

    Your editor has worked in the computing field for rather longer than he cares to admit; for all of that time it has been said that a day will come when all that tedious programming work will no longer be necessary. Instead, we'll just say what we want and the computer will figure it out. Arguably, the announcement of GitHub Copilot takes us another step in that direction. On the way, though, it raises some interesting questions about copyright and free-software licensing.

    Copilot is a machine-learning system that generates code. Given the beginning of a function or data-structure definition, it attempts to fill in the rest; it can also work from a comment describing the desired functionality. If one believes the testimonials on the Copilot site, it can do a miraculous job of figuring out the developer's intent and providing the needed code. It promises to take some of the grunge work out of development and increase developer productivity. Of course, it can happily generate security vulnerabilities; it also uploads the code you're working on and remembers if you took its suggestions, but that's the world we've built for ourselves.

    Machine-learning systems, of course, must be trained on large amounts of data. Happily for GitHub, it just happens to be sitting on a massive pile of code, most of which is under free-software licenses. So the company duly used the code in the publicly available repositories it hosts to train this model; evidently private repositories were not used for this purpose. For now, the result is available as a restricted beta offering; the company plans to turn it into a commercial product going forward.

  • FSF-funded call for white papers on philosophical and legal questions around Copilot

    We already know that Copilot as it stands is unacceptable and unjust, from our perspective. It requires running software that is not free/libre (Visual Studio, or parts of Visual Studio Code), and Copilot is Service as a Software Substitute. These are settled questions as far as we are concerned.

  • FSF job opportunity: Operations assistant — Free Software Foundation

    The Free Software Foundation (FSF), a Massachusetts 501(c)(3) charity with a worldwide mission to protect and promote computer-user freedom, seeks a motivated and organized Boston-based individual to be our full-time operations assistant.

    Reporting to the executive director, this position works on the operations team to ensure all administrative, office, and retail functions of the FSF run smoothly and efficiently, preserving our 4-star Charity Navigator rating and boosting all areas of our work.

LWN

From Microsoft propaganda site Visual Studio Magazine

GitHub Copilot is ‘unacceptable and unjust', according to FSF

  • GitHub Copilot is ‘unacceptable and unjust', according to Free Software Foundation

    GitHub Copilot, a Visual Studio Code extension that uses artificial intelligence to help developers write code, has drawn the ire of the Free Software Foundation (FSF), which is calling for white papers that address legal and philosophical questions raised by the technology.

    GitHub Copilot is “unacceptable and unjust, from our perspective,” the FSF wrote in a blog post calling for white papers on the implications of Copilot for the free software community. The reason is that Copilot requires running software that is not free, such as Microsoft’s Visual Studio IDE or Visual Studio Code editor, the FSF contends, and constitutes a “service as a software substitute” meaning it’s a way to gain power over other people’s computing.

Machine learning: Free Software Foundation targets GitHub...

  • Machine learning: Free Software Foundation targets GitHub Copilot

    The Free Software Foundation (FSF) has launched a call for white papers on GitHub Copilot. The papers submitted are intended to analyze the effects of the machine learning assistant on the free software community, which is associated with numerous questions. The appeal blog post promises that the organization will read all submitted white papers and pay a reward for every $ 500 published.

    At the same time, the article makes it clear that, from the point of view of the FSF, Copilot is “unacceptable and unjust”, since the use with Microsoft products Visual Studio or Visual Studio Code requires software that, in their view, is not free / libre software. At this point it should be mentioned that the source code editor Visual Studio Code is free and essentially open source, but far from free software in the understanding of the FSF.

Microsoft site: FSF is "open-source software advocate"

  • The Free Software Foundation thinks GitHub Copilot should be illegal

    The open-source software advocate complains that Copilot requires closed source software such as Microsoft’s Visual Studio IDE or Visual Studio Code editor to run and that it constitutes a “service as a software substitute” meaning it’s a way to gain power over other people’s computing.

    The FSF felt there were numerous issues with Copilot which still needed to be tested in court.

    “Developers want to know if training a neural network on their software can be considered fair use. Others who might want to use Copilot wonder if the code snippets and other elements copied from GitHub-hosted repositories could result in copyright infringement. And even if everything might be legally copacetic, activists wonder if there isn’t something fundamentally unfair about a proprietary software company building a service off their work,” the FSF wrote.

Related and belated mention

  • Hackaday Links: August 8, 2021 | Hackaday

    Do you have burning opinions about GitHub Copilot, the AI pair programmer that Microsoft introduced a few months ago? Are you worried about the future of free and open software? The Free Software Foundation is funding a call for white papers of 3,000 or fewer words that address either Copilot itself or the subjects of copyright, machine learning, or free software as a whole. If you need more background information first, check out [Maya Posch]’s excellent article on the subject of Copilot and our disappointing AI present. Submissions are due by 10AM EDT (14:00 UTC) on Monday, August 23rd.

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