Microsoft, GitHub and OpenAI want a court to dismiss a proposed class-action lawsuit that accuses the companies of copying licensed code to build GitHub’s AI-powered Copilot tool, reports The Verge. In several filings submitted in federal court in San Francisco, Microsoft-owned OpenAI and GitHub said the claims in the lawsuit are untrue.
Launched in 2021, Copilot uses OpenAI technology to generate and suggest lines of code directly in a programmer’s code editor. The tool, which is trained on publicly available code from GitHub, raised concerns about whether it violated copyright laws shortly after its release.
The situation escalated last November when programmer and lawyer Matthew Butterick teamed up with a team of lawyers at the Joseph Saveri Law Firm to file a class action lawsuit, alleging that the tool relies on “software piracy on an unprecedented scale.” Butterick and his legal team later filed a second proposed class action lawsuit on the behalf of two anonymous software developers on similar grounds, which is the suit Microsoft, GitHub, and OpenAI want dismissed.
According to the statement, Microsoft and GitHub argue that the lawsuit “fails on two intrinsic defects: lack of injury and lack of an otherwise viable claim,” while OpenAI similarly states that the plaintiffs “allege a grab bag of claims that fail to plead violations of cognizable legal rights.” The companies say the plaintiffs rely on “hypothetical events” in their lawsuits and say they don’t describe how they were personally harmed by the tool.
“Copilot withdraws nothing from the body of open source code available to the public,” Microsoft and GitHub claim in the filing. “Rather, Copilot helps developers write code by generating suggestions based on what it has learned from the entire body of knowledge gleaned from public code.”
In addition, Microsoft and GitHub claim that it is the plaintiffs who are “undermine open source principles” by asking for “an injunction and a multi-billion dollar windfall” in relation to the “software that they willingly share as open source.”
A court hearing to dismiss this lawsuit will be held in May. Despite the potential legal issues hindering the development of AI-based tools, Microsoft has pledged billions of dollars to continue its long-term partnership with OpenAI. The company is also rumored to be considering bringing AI technology to Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook, and reportedly wants to add the ChatGPT chatbot to Bing.
While other companies are also exploring AI, Microsoft, GitHub and OpenAI aren’t the only ones facing legal challenges. Earlier this month, Butterick and Joseph Saveri Law Firm filed yet another lawsuit alleging that AI art tools created by MidJourney, Stability AI, and DeviantArt violate copyright laws by illegally using the work of Internet artists. Getty Images is also suing Stability AI, claiming that the company’s Stable Diffusion tool is “unlawfully” using its images.