We’ve filed a law­suit chal­leng­ing GitHub Copi­lot, an AI prod­uct that relies on unprece­dented open-source soft­ware piracy.
Because AI needs to be fair & eth­i­cal for every­one.

Novem­ber 3, 2022

Hello. This is Matthew Butterick. On Octo­ber 17 I told you that I had teamed up with the amaz­ingly excel­lent class-action lit­i­ga­tors Joseph Saveri, Cadio Zir­poli, and Travis Man­fredi at the Joseph Saveri Law Firm to inves­ti­gate GitHub Copi­lot.

Today, we’ve filed a class-action law­suit in US fed­eral court in San Fran­cisco, CA on behalf of a pro­posed class of pos­si­bly mil­lions of GitHub users. We are chal­leng­ing the legal­ity of GitHub Copi­lot (and a related prod­uct, OpenAI Codex, which pow­ers Copi­lot). The suit has been filed against a set of defen­dants that includes GitHub, Microsoft (owner of GitHub), and OpenAI.

Today’s fil­ings:

By train­ing their AI sys­tems on pub­lic GitHub repos­i­to­ries (though based on their pub­lic state­ments, pos­si­bly much more) we con­tend that the defen­dants have vio­lated the legal rights of a vast num­ber of cre­ators who posted code or other work under cer­tain open-source licenses on GitHub. Which licenses? A set of 11 pop­u­lar open-source licenses that all require attri­bu­tion of the author’s name and copy­right, includ­ing the MIT license, the GPL, and the Apache license. (These are enu­mer­ated in the appen­dix to the com­plaint.)

In addi­tion to vio­lat­ing the attri­bu­tion require­ments of these licenses, we con­tend that the defen­dants have vio­lated:

In the weeks ahead, we will likely amend this com­plaint to add other par­ties and claims.

This is the first step in what will be a long jour­ney. As far as we know, this is the first class-action case in the US chal­leng­ing the train­ing and out­put of AI sys­tems. It will not be the last. AI sys­tems are not exempt from the law. Those who cre­ate and oper­ate these sys­tems must remain account­able. If com­pa­nies like Microsoft, GitHub, and OpenAI choose to dis­re­gard the law, they should not expect that we the pub­lic will sit still. AI needs to be fair & eth­i­cal for every­one. If it’s not, then it can never achieve its vaunted aims of ele­vat­ing human­ity. It will just become another way for the priv­i­leged few to profit from the work of the many.

We plan to update this web­site reg­u­larly dur­ing the lit­i­ga­tion. Please fol­low our Twit­ter account at @copi­lot­case for the lat­est.

Novem­ber 10, 2022

We’ve filed a sec­ond class-action law­suit in US fed­eral court in San Fran­cisco, CA on behalf of two addi­tional plain­tiffs. The defen­dants and claims are oth­er­wise sim­i­lar to the ini­tial com­plaint filed on Novem­ber 3.

Today’s fil­ings:

Con­tact­ing us

If you’re a mem­ber of the press or the pub­lic with other ques­tions about this case or related top­ics, you can con­tact me at mb@but­t­er­ick­law.com or the whole legal team at github_inquiries@saver­i­law­firm.com. (Though please don’t send con­fi­den­tial or priv­i­leged infor­ma­tion.) More infor­ma­tion about the back­ground of this case is avail­able here.

This web page is infor­ma­tional. Gen­eral prin­ci­ples of law are dis­cussed. But nei­ther Matthew Butterick nor any­one at the Joseph Saveri Law Firm is your law­yer, and noth­ing here is offered as legal advice. Ref­er­ences to copy­right per­tain to US law. This page will be updated as new infor­ma­tion becomes avail­able.