Developers lose GitHub Copilot copyright case again

Developers lose GitHub Copilot copyright case again

The U.S. judge has again failed to vindicate developers in a class-action lawsuit over alleged copyright abuse in GitHub Copilot. According to the judge, the lawsuit said the AI tool for Microsoft’s open-source repository environment did not generate the same code as developers.

Code developers sued GitHub and Microsoft in 22 cases in November 2022, following the launch of the AI code tool GitHub Copilot. This is for possible copyright infringement by the code developers affiliated with the lawsuit.

More specifically, the AI tool was allegedly trained on open-source software on GitHub. The code snippets created by the tool did not adhere to any licenses and did not credit the original developers. Based on this, the developers believed this infringed their copyright and took them to court.

Many cases invalidated

Over the years, many charges have already been invalidated, and now the U.S. judge has again more or less invalidated the last of these complaints. The judge’s main argument in the most recent ruling is that the code generated by GitHub Copilot is not completely identical to the code added to the platform by code developers.

GitHub allegedly modified its AI programming assistant last year to present slight variations of the training code to prevent developers from filing a copyright claim.

Read more: GitHub Copilot now warns developers if it plagiarizes code

In addition, the court does not hold that GitHub’s tool would violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). This decision was made because the platform takes extra steps to protect against copyright. It, for example, removes all licensing and developer data. The judge concluded that the complainants could not prove this (enough), so this claim was immediately deemed inadmissible.

Two other claims dismissed by the judge dealt with GitHub and Microsoft unjustly enriching themselves and having damages assessed.

Continued litigation

Two cases remain open within the lawsuit. One revolves around a complaint for infringement of an open-source license, and the other revolves around a breach of contract. The latter case was reinstated after it was annulled at an earlier stage.

Both parties also recently filed a joint procedural complaint in court about the investigation process in this case. In it, they accused each other of not providing certain documents despite being asked for them.

Also read: Developers sue GitHub Copilot for software piracy