OpenAI and Microsoft want the court to throw out a lawsuit accusing them of abusing open source code

Spread the love

  • Firms Say Allegations Not Specific Enough, Citing Fair Use Defense
  • Anonymous plaintiffs say OpenAI and Microsoft are misusing copyrighted source code

(Reuters) – Microsoft Corp, Microsoft’s GitHub Inc and OpenAI Inc told a federal court in San Francisco that a proposed class action lawsuit for improperly monetizing open source code to train their artificial intelligence systems cannot be upheld.

The companies said in court documents Thursday that the complaint, filed by a group of anonymous copyright owners, did not describe their allegations specifically enough and that GitHub’s Copilot system, which suggests lines of code for programmers, made fair use of the source code.

A spokesperson for GitHub, an online platform for housing code, said Friday that the company was “committed to responsibly innovating with Copilot from the start” and that its move is “a testament to our belief in the work we’ve done to achieve that.”

OpenAI representatives and the plaintiffs did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday.

Two anonymous plaintiffs, seeking to represent a class of people who own copyrights to code on GitHub, sued Microsoft, GitHub, and OpenAI in November. They said the companies trained Copilot with code from GitHub repositories without complying with open source license terms, and that Copilot illegally reproduces their code.

Open source software can be modified or distributed free of charge by any user complying with a license, which typically requires attribution to the original creator, copyright notice and a copy of the license, according to the lawsuit.

“Copilot’s goal is to replace a lot of open source by taking it and keeping it within a GitHub-controlled paywall,” the complaint reads. “It violates the licenses chosen by open source programmers and monetizes their code despite GitHub’s promise never to do so.”

Microsoft and OpenAI said Thursday that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the case because they did not argue that they suffered specific injuries from the companies’ actions.

The companies also said the lawsuit did not identify particular copyrighted works they misused or contracts they violated.

Microsoft also said in its filing that the copyright allegations “would run afoul of the fair use doctrine,” which allows unlicensed use of copyrighted works in some situations. Both companies cited a 2021 US Supreme Court decision that Google’s use of Oracle source code to build its Android operating system was transformative fair use.

Microsoft said Monday it would invest billions of dollars in the popular generative artificial intelligence company OpenAI, which it first backed with $1 billion in 2019.

The source code case is Doe v. GitHub Inc, US District Court for the Northern District of California, No. 4:22-cv-06823.

For the plaintiffs: Joseph Saveri, Cadio Zirpoli and Travis Manfredi of the Joseph Saveri Law Firm; Matthew Butterick

For Microsoft: Annette Hurst, William Oxley and Alyssa Caridis of Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe

For OpenAI: Michael Jacobs, Joseph Gratz and Tiffany Cheung of Morrison & Foerster

Read more:

Lawsuits accuse AI content creators of misusing copyrighted work

Microsoft lures users into its generative AI code-writing software

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

blake brittany

Thomson Reuters

Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. Contact him at

#OpenAI #Microsoft #court #throw #lawsuit #accusing #abusing #open #source #code

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *