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You are here: Home FSF News Publication of the FSF-funded white papers on questions around Copilot

Publication of the FSF-funded white papers on questions around Copilot

by Craig Topham Contributions Published on Feb 24, 2022 05:36 PM
Publication of the FSF-funded white papers on questions around Copilot

FSF-funder whitepapers on github copilot now published

Microsoft GitHub's announcement of an AI-driven Service as a Software Substitute (SaaSS) program called Copilot -- which uses machine learning to autocomplete code for developers as they write software -- immediately raised serious questions for the free software movement and our ability to safeguard user and developer freedom. We felt these questions needed to be addressed, as a variety of serious implications were foreseen for the free software community and developers who use GitHub. These inquiries -- and others possibly yet to be discovered -- needed to be reviewed in depth.

In our call for papers, we set forth several areas of interest. Most of these areas centered around copyright law, questions of ownership for AI-generated code, and legal impacts for GitHub authors who use a GNU or other copyleft license(s) for their works. We are pleased to announce the community-provided research into these areas, and much more.

First, we want to thank everyone who participated by sending in their papers. We received a healthy response of twenty-two papers from members of the community. The papers weighed-in on the multiple areas of interest we had indicated in our announcement. Using an anonymous review process, we concluded there were five papers that would be best suited to inform the community and foster critical conversations to help guide our actions in the search for solutions.

These five submissions are not ranked, and we decided it best to just let the papers speak for themselves. The papers contain opinions with which the Free Software Foundation (FSF) may or may not agree, and any views expressed by the authors do not necessarily represent the FSF. They were selected because we thought they advanced discussion of important questions, and did so clearly. To that end, the FSF is not providing any summaries of the papers or elaborating on our developing positions until we can learn further, through the community, how best to view the situation.

The following papers were selected (alphabetical by title):

Copilot, copying, commons, community, culture

Copyright implications of the use of code repositories to train a machine learning model

  • John A. Rothchild, Professor of Law, Wayne State University and Daniel H. Rothchild, PhD candidate, University of California, Berkeley
  • PDF
  • HTML
  • CC BY 4.0

If software is my copilot, who programmed my software?

Interpreting docstrings without common sense

  • Darren Abramson, Associate Professor, Dalhousie University and Ali Emami, assistant professor, Brock University
  • PDF
  • HTML
  • CC BY-ND 4.0

On the nature of AI code copilots

What's next?

If this subject is of interest to you, we recommend you read this selection of papers and share your thoughts and feedback. Several of the authors have agreed to participate in follow-up discussions which will be held via IRC, LibrePlanet Wiki, and LibrePlanet Discuss mailing list. Listed below is the schedule and details for these discussions.

Live events

FSF is planning a series of (now confirmed) live events aimed to generate discussion around the findings. Please consider joining the following events:

Discussion on pages

Whether or not you are able to attend any of the live events, we encourage you to contribute to the discussion on the wiki and mailing list. As stakeholders in free software, the preservation of user freedom and copyleft, we would like to engage the community in any possible actions that must be taken.

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