Microsoft’s new service for automatically writing AI-based code, Copilot, has sparked outrage in the Open Source community.
“Microsoft loves open source.” So much has been put on this slogan recently, only to change the Open Source community’s perspective toward the Redmond company.
And while Microsoft was no longer demonized as the worst thing that could happen to the Open Source, certain of the Redmond tech giant’s tactics remained regardless of the times.
It must be said unequivocally, now and forever, that Microsoft loves open source! However, with one additional qualification: when it can generate a profit from it.
While this may appear to be perfectly acceptable from a business standpoint, it is quite the opposite regarding moral violations. And Microsoft did it again.
GitHub Copilot Uses Open-Source Code and Strips Credit
As you know, Microsoft acquired GitHub in 2018 for more than seven billion dollars. In reality, GitHub is the world’s largest repository of open-source code.
At the heart of the problem that has blown up the Open Source community in recent days is the GitHub Copilot service. It’s a code writing assistance tool driven by artificial intelligence (AI) that the company just unveiled.
And now we get to the core of the issue. Copilot is powered by natural language text and openly available source code, including code in GitHub public repositories. And, of course, you must have a paid subscription or a special invitation from Microsoft to access Copilot.
To put it another way. You are a developer who has contributed valuable content to various GitHub projects over the years. Of course, everyone is welcome to use it.
Would you be satisfied if your code was used for profit by a closed-source app without giving you credit? In its classic fashion, this is where Microsoft tramples on moral boundaries.
In response to this action, the Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC), a non-profit that provides various services to open-source software projects, has stated its intention to leave GitHub and has asked others to do the same.
Today, we take a stronger stance. We are ending all our own uses of GitHub, and announcing a long-term plan to assist FOSS projects to migrate away from GitHub.
After the SFC last week reminded GitHub of its unanswered questions and refusal to participate in public discussions, GitHub responded that it would not participate in any public or private discussion because “a broader conversation seemed unlikely to change your (SFC’s) stance, which is why we (GitHub) have not responded to your detailed questions.”
Without a doubt, an arrogant and rude approach. In other words, “Leave if you don’t like it. We don’t mind.” But what Microsoft’s GitHub fails to realize is that the Open Source community is extremely sensitive to violations of software freedoms. And the snowball that is currently bouncing on top of the mountain could roll and become an avalanche.
The conclusion of all of this is obvious. For Redmond’s tech giant, there have never been and will never be moral borders that are not worth crossing in pursuing profit. So, they’ve done it again. Is anyone surprised?