Lawsuit Takes Aim at the Way A.I. Is Built

Microsoft launched a new type of artificial intelligence technology called Copilot that could create its own computer code in June. It was intended to help professional programmers speed up their work. It would show them ready-made blocks that they could add to their code as they typed on their laptops. Many programmers were impressed by the tool.

Matthew Butterick, a programmer and designer in Los Angeles, wasn’t one of them. He and a group of lawyers filed a class-action lawsuit against Microsoft and other companies involved in the design and deployment of Copilot. Copilot was developed by analysing vast amounts of data. It rel…

Github Copilot is an AI tool that suggests blocks of code as programmers type. It has been recently under scrutiny for violating open-source licenses. Matthew Butterick, a programmer, and lawyer, filed a class action lawsuit in the US against Github Copilot and its parent company Microsoft. The lawsuit claims that the tool “profits from the work of open source programmers by violating their conditions of their opensource licenses.” This lawsuit echoes many concerns raised by creators in the past.

According to Wired, the suit claimed that Copilot doesn’t give attribution when it reproduces source code. This violates open-source licenses. Although copyright concerns regarding AI-generated work are not new. Experts speculate that the lawsuit, which challenges the foundations on which AI tools are built, could have a significant impact upon the future landscape for AI tech. Joseph Saveri, founder of the law firm behind the suit, called it the “first major step in the battle against intellectual-property violations in the tech industry arising from artificial-intelligence systems.”

Programmers aren’t the only ones concerned about AI copyright and compensation. These concerns have been echoed by writers, musicians, and visual artists in recent years. This is especially true in the wake of more popular and efficient generative AI image- and video tools such as Open AI’s DALL–E and Stable Diffusion. Newer generative approaches, such as DALL-E, will use images from Pablo Picasso to create new AI training. This is in contrast to previous AI training that inelegantly stuffed billions of units into a learning set. This act of repurposing data further complicates traditional copyright thinking. A growing number of creative writers and artists have recently spoken out, sharing their concerns about the potential danger posed by the AI system’s maturation.

Companies are looking for innovative ways to credit people whose work influences the algorithm. Shutterstock, for example, announced last month that it will start selling DALL-E AI-generated art (also trained by humans) directly on the website. Shuttersock announced that it will launch a “Contributor Fund”, to pay contributors whose Shutterstock images were used in the development of the tech. Shutterstock stated that it is also interested in paying royalties to contributors when DALL-E uses the images.

It is not clear if the plan works in practice. Shutterstock is a small company, compared to Big Tech giants such as Microsoft. There are no industry-wide standards for compensating creators who inadvertently train AI systems.

Butterick’s beef in particular with Copilot began almost immediately after the product was launched. In June 2021, a blog post entitled “This Copilot Is Stupid and Wants To Kill Me” Butterick stated that he agrees with others who describe the tool as “primarily an engine for violating Open-Source licenses.” The lawyers also compared Copilot’s ability to write code to that of a 12-year old who could learn Javascript in one day. It is not always correct.

Alex

I am a senior journalist with a passion for writing. I was born in Texas and have been involved in mass communication for many years. I love to cook and enjoy sports. I am also a very passionate person.

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