GitHub has announced Copilot for Business, the business plan for its OpenAI-powered coding assistant Copilot. This 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 utilizes the 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 provides suggestions to developers.
Copilot for Business offers the same feature set as the Single license level. It also adds license management and organization-wide management capabilities. License management allows administrators to determine which organizations, teams, and developers receive licenses. GitHub also states that Copilot for Business “will not retain, store or share code snippets, whether the data comes from public, private, non-GitHub repositories, or local files. I don’t do it.”
According to GitHub, organization-wide controls include the ability to block Copilot from suggesting code that matches or nearly matches public code found on GitHub. Introduced in June, this feature blocks suggestions of 150 characters or more that match a public code. GitHub warns that about 1% of the time a suggestion may contain code snippets longer than 150 characters.
However, Tim Davis, professor of computer science at Texas A&M, reported GitHub Copilot produced “large portions of copyrighted code without attribution or LGPL license,” even with the block public code flag enabled. The controversy over tools doesn’t stop there.
In November 2022, a class action lawsuit was launched against Microsoft, GitHub, and OpenAI. The lawsuit, filed by Matthew Butterick and his law firm Joseph Saveri, alleges that Copilot violates the rights of developers of open source code trained in the service. They allege that Training Code consumed licensed material without attribution, copyright notice, or compliance with the terms of the license.
Alex J. Champagnedahl, Founder of creative.ai, agree With Butterick, the license should have been respected:
Copilot is in bold [and] Innovative IMHO, but could have been equally transformative if they had consented or respected the license. Given the budget, this would have been relatively easy to achieve.
However, many users report how beneficial Copilot has been to their productivity. On Reddit, user ctrlshiftba shares that Copilot is “very good”. [boilerplate]When it’s working at its best, it works like autocomplete in my code. Alexcroox agrees with him on Reddit. “Just autocomplete based on your current code base and the code you wrote that day is often faster.”
GitHub warns that “The GitHub Copilot training set may contain references to unsafe coding patterns, bugs, or outdated APIs and idioms.” It states that end users are responsible for ensuring the security and quality of their code, including code generated and submitted by Copilot.
Some legal experts argue that Copliot could put companies at risk if they unknowingly use copyrighted proposals or code pulled from copyleft-licensed repositories. GitHub says it will introduce new features in 2023. This allows developers to understand code similar to suggestions found in GitHub public repositories, sorted by license or commit date.
Coplot for Business is available now and is priced at $19 USD per user per month.