GitHub has announced Copilot for Business, an OpenAI-powered coding assistant. The release comes after Microsoft, GitHub and OpenAI were recently sued for violating open source licenses.
Co-pilot generally available in July 2022. The tool is powered by 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 offers the same feature set for business as a single license level. It also adds license management and enterprise-wide management capabilities. With license management, administrators can decide which organizations, groups, and developers receive licenses. GitHub also says with Copilot Business that “regardless of whether the data is from public repositories, private repositories, non-GitHub repositories, or local files, we do not maintain, store, or share code snippets.”
According to GitHub, enterprise-wide management capabilities include the ability to block Copilot from public code that references or matches code found on GitHub. This feature, introduced in June, blocks suggestions of 150+ characters that match public codes. GitHub warns that around 1% of suggestions may contain code snippets longer than 150 characters.
However, Tim Davis, professor of computer science at Texas A&M; He reported GitHub Copilot produces large chunks of “copyrighted code, no attribution, LGPL license” even when the block public code flag is enabled. This is not the only controversy surrounding the device.
In November 2022, a class action lawsuit was filed against Microsoft, GitHub, and OpenAI. The lawsuit, filed by Matthew Buterick and the law firm Joseph Savery, alleges that Copilot violates the rights of the developers whose open source code the service trains. They claim that Training Code has consumed their licensed materials without any attribution, copyright notice, or license agreement.
Butterick wrote, “Copilot’s walled garden is antithetical—and toxic—to open source. So it’s a betrayal of everything GitHub stood for before it was bought by Microsoft.”
Alex J. Champard, founder of creator.ai; He agrees. With Buterick, whose consent should have been respected:
The copilot is brave. [and] Creative IMHO, but could have made an equal difference if they got permission or respected the permissions – which was relatively easy to get their budget for.
However, many users say how helpful Copilot has been to their productivity. On Reddit, user ctrlshiftba said Copilot is “really cool. [boilerplate]. It’s great when it works. My code has it as autocomplete.” Alexcroox on Reddit agrees, “Most of the time it makes me faster just by autocompleting based on the current code and the code I’m writing that day.”
GitHub warns that “the training set for GitHub Copilot may contain unsafe coding practices, bugs, or references to outdated APIs or idioms.” You state that the end user is responsible for ensuring the security and quality of Copilot’s code.
Some legal experts have argued that copycat companies may inadvertently put copyrighted ideas or code taken from repositories at risk of copyright infringement. GitHub has announced that in 2023, it will introduce new features to help developers keep track of code similar to comments on GitHub’s public repositories, as well as the ability to sort or date that by permission.
Copliot for Business is available now and retails for $19 per user per month.