GitHub has announced Copilot for Business, a business initiative for their OpenAI-powered coding assistant, Copilot. The release follows recent class-action lawsuits against Microsoft, GitHub, and OpenAI for violating open-source licenses.
Copilot will be generally available in July 2022. The tool is powered by OpenAI Codex, an artificial intelligence model trained on tens of millions of public repositories. Copilot is a cloud-based tool that analyzes existing code and comments and makes recommendations to developers.
Copilot for Business offers the same feature set as a single license tier. It also adds license management and organization-wide administration capabilities. License management allows administrators to decide which organizations, teams, and developers are licensed. GitHub also says that with Copilot for Business, they “do not keep code snippets, store or share your code, whether the data comes from public repositories, private repositories, non-GitHub repositories, or local files.”
According to GitHub, organization-wide curation features will include the ability to prevent Copilot from suggesting code that matches or nearly matches public code found on GitHub. Launched in June, the feature blocks suggestions for more than 150 characters that match public codes. GitHub warns that in about 1% of cases, suggestions may contain code snippets longer than 150 characters.
However, Tim Davis, a professor of computer science at Texas A&M reported Even with the block public code flag enabled, GitHub Copilot produced “a large block of my copyrighted code, no attribution, no LGPL license”. That’s not the only controversy surrounding the tool.
In November 2022, a class action lawsuit was launched against Microsoft, GitHub, and OpenAI. The lawsuit, filed by Matthew Butterick and law firm Joseph Saveri, alleges that Copilot violated the rights of its open source developers, on whom the service is based. on for training. They claim that the training code uses licensed material, but has no attribution, copyright notice, or compliance with the terms of the license.
Butterick wrote, “Copilot’s walled garden is antithetical to open source — and toxic. As such, it’s also a betrayal of everything GitHub stood for before it was acquired by Microsoft.”
Alex J. Champandard, founder of creative.ai, agree Butterick argues that licenses should be respected:
co-pilot is bold [and] Innovative IMHO, but could have been just as transformative had they obtained consent or respected the license – something that could have been relatively simple given their budget.
However, many users report how helpful Copilot is to their productivity.On Reddit, user ctrlshiftba shared that Copilot is “really good at [boilerplate]. When it works at its best, it acts like autocompletion for my code. ” Alexcroox on Reddit agrees, “A lot of times it makes me faster just by auto-completing based on my current codebase and the code I wrote that day. “.
GitHub does warn that “GitHub Copilot’s training set may contain unsafe coding patterns, bugs, or references to outdated APIs or idioms.” They state that end users are responsible for ensuring the security and quality of their code, including Copilot generation and recommendations code.
Some legal experts believe that Copliot could put companies at risk if they unknowingly use copyrighted advice or code pulled from a repository with a copyleft license. GitHub said they will roll out new features in 2023 to help developers understand code similar to those suggested in GitHub’s public repositories, and to be able to sort code by license or commit date.
Copliot for Business is available now for $19 per user per month.