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    The list of issues present in this article boils down to “I don’t like their markdown spec” and “they’re closed source”, which I think are incredibly weak arguments.

    GitHub is a proprietary, trade-secret system that is not Free and Open Source Software (FOSS).

    (from the Software Freedom Conservancy post that was linked:)

    In the central irony, GitHub succeeded where SourceForge failed: they have convinced us to promote and even aid in the creation of a proprietary system that exploits FOSS.

    What is “exploiting FOSS”? How is GitHub exploiting FOSS by being closed source? None of the Freedoms granted by free software are prevented when using GitHub’s platform. I don’t understand why every commercial usage of free software is demonized to hell and back. Free software would be far less useful and prominent if it wasn’t for its ability to be used by businesses. Encouraging businesses to use (and lock-in to) FOSS is a better choice than completely segmenting the ecosystems. The proliferation of FOSS depends on commercial usage.

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      i would imagine they are talking about GitHub Co-pilot and how they trained it on FOSS without respect for licenses, which absolutely is exploitive

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        All of my open source work is released under a BSD license, by my choice. How is it “exploitative” for GitHub to do something I’ve explicitly granted them permission to do? Even before I’d agreed to their terms of service, even before GitHub existed, I was perfectly content to offer code to the world under a permissive license and was already doing so.

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          For BSD-licensed code, it’s fine. But Copilot is also trained on GPL-licensed code, which forbids proprietary software being derived from it.

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            First of all, it’s relevant to point out that not all of us use copyleft licenses, and many people instead use permissive licenses which explicitly say we’re OK with this. Too many Copilot discussions, and “corporate exploitation of open source” discussions in general, are framed as if the entire community is using copyleft licenses when it is not at all the case.

            And for Copilot versus the GPL, I expect nobody will ever bother trying to enforce, and if someone does it will simply be ruled in court that GitHub’s terms of service make it work. To lay it out as simply as possible, when putting code on GitHub you are making two license grants. One of those license grants is to the world at large via whatever you put in your LICENSE or license-indicator metadata, and the other license grant is specifically to GitHub, and is defined in GitHub’s terms of service. GitHub will almost certainly argue that the second license grant permits Copilot to do its thing, and if their legal team has done their jobs, the license grant in the terms of service will permit Copilot to do its thing.

            This leaves only the possibility of someone uploading code for which they do not have sufficient rights to make the GitHub-terms-of-service license grant, but the terms also require that person to indemnify GitHub, so the person who ends up in a lot of legal pain is still not GitHub – it’s the person who uploaded the code without being able to grant the associated license to GitHub.

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          I think I would encourage the use of using NNs trained on Free software. It’s creatively transforming the work to provide creativity and automation to others. That is the same reason I would encourage others to transform and spread Free software. I don’t think that’s exploitative to the authors of the original software.

          As for other-licensed software, I don’t particularly care about their licenses, because I would prefer all software to be Free, so I don’t see GitHub “exploiting” other author’s work. It was clear in my test run of Copilot that it wasn’t copying some other author’s work verbatim, it was genuinely learning the patterns in my codebase. I don’t think patterns of code can or should be copyrighted anyway.

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            For me, it’s not so much that GitHub’s efforts around Copilot and Codespaces are exploitative as they are one-way gates. They extract business value from open source software and lock it inside their ML models, managed cloud infrastructure, and proprietary APIs.

            Yes, there’s almost certainly more open source code in the world because of GitHub’s efforts, but a whole lot of it is useless without proprietary services you can only rent, not buy, and certainly not fork and hack on yourself.

            It’s a kinder, more self-aware Microsoft, but it is still Microsoft. Their playbook has always included being the foremost vendor of platforms and APIs that are “open” in the sense of being documented and accessible to developers, but not in the sense of having any choice of provider, terms, or implementation.

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              They extract business value from open source software and lock it inside

              But that’s what businesses do. They put in work to add value to their inputs, and then sell the outputs at a premium. How is this fundamentally different from going to a field to pick blueberries, cooking them into jam, and then locking the jam away inside jars to sell at the market? (Except that in this case GitHub didn’t even take away the blueberries.)

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                The correct analogy would be the owner of the field telling you that you can pick blueberries, but everything you make from them must also be freely accessible.

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                  No, that would be the model of the original GPL. “I will give you this blueberry jam, but in exchange you must share the recipe whereby they were created.”

                  GitHub says, “cool, thanks, but no. I’m gonna take this jam and feed it into my jam-copier, then let people choose it as a flavor to mix in the jam I sell them at my farm stand next door to the community garden. The copier is my proprietary secret invention, though, so you can’t see inside and know how I extract and mix the flavors, and I’m not going to credit any of the cooks who contributed.”

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                    Well, here we run into the usual issue where intellectual property is trivially copyable while blueberries aren’t.

                    The more interesting point specific to Copilot is whether the neural net is a derivative work of the GPL’d code it was trained on. I don’t think it is — the amount of transformation that’s gone on is too high. If I’m allowed to read some GPL code to study how it works and then write my own code that does something similar (i.e. there’s no “clean-room” requirement the way there is with reverse engineering), I think that also allows for what Copilot is doing. Not because Copilot is intelligent, but because both involve similar degrees of transformation.

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              Too lazy to find the source, but there was a lawyer that stated like generative art, it would likely be better for freedom if all generated code like this were required to be licensed as 0BSD–the CC0 of software.

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              “I don’t like their markdown spec” and “they’re closed source”, which I think are incredibly weak arguments.

              I’ll grant you the markdown spec bit, but the closed source argument is the single strongest argument possible in this space.

              How on earth did the so much of open source community come to depend on a proprietary, closed-source system run by an organisation that has historically been one of the most antagonistic towards open source software?

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                Github offered a superior product for no to low cost.

                Their dominant position in Open Source development was built before they were acquired by Microsoft.

                Not everyone involved in developing open source software cares about the philosophical underpinnings of Free Software, or are even aware of the rift between FS and Open Source/permissive licensing. Anyone choosing an MIT license for example should have any problem hosting it on a platform that doesn’t publish the code they use.

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                  Github offered a superior product for no to low cost.

                  … up-front.

                  Don’t get me wrong, I was an enthusiastic user and promoter of Github for years. It was so much better to use than Sourceforge in so many ways. My “how on earth” was more of a rhetorical hand-wringing than a serious question; I know exactly how, because I was there.

                  In hindsight, though, I believe it was a mistake.

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                  one of the most antagonistic towards open source software

                  I don’t see this being applicable to GitHub when they have enabled the development of so much open source software. I would love for GH to be open source, and I’m glad that free alternatives exist, but I don’t view the open source-ness of the platform I’m using to be a deciding factor. Especially when it’s relatively simple to jump off of GH. Git is still decentralized here - nothing is tying you to GH aside from logs of issues / PRs (which are also able to be migrated). Your core software and audience isn’t directly tied to the platform.

                  I empathize with the sentiment, but I’m not going to jump ship solely because they’re closed source. Otherwise, if I wanted to stay consistent, I wouldn’t use any software that was closed source. That would be a cool world to live in, but for now closed source software, in a lot of scenarios, is the best we have.

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                    I think he means Microsoft

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                      but for now closed source software, in a lot of scenarios, is the best we have.

                      Yes, that’s true, and I use a fair bit of it myself - from binary blobs on ARM systems to my Chromecasts attached to my TVs.

                      But those scenarios do not include software forges :)

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                  It’s unfortunate that you can’t just leave in most cases. All of my employers and contracts seem to use it (and G-Suite). Projects I want to help mostly live there. Some communities it becomes your source of identity and package management. The best you can do is stop your own personal projects and in good faith either try to convince folks to migrate or at least bring awareness that some users feel trapped as you can’t contribute without using the Microsoft-owned platform. It may seem odd that the terrible Markdown fork choices GitHub has been making appears to be the main issue in the article, but I can almost guarantee this is just the straw that broke the camel’s back for this dev. Regardless of reason, I support anyone that is trying to break the Git forge centralization and monoculture.

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                    How terrible that GitHub has some bad proposals for extending their Markdown syntax — even though people object to them! Such a thing would surely never occur in an open source project!

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                      Flagged; lobsters is not a pitchfork outlet.