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Re: Help building Pen.el (GPT for emacs)

From: Eli Zaretskii
Subject: Re: Help building Pen.el (GPT for emacs)
Date: Sat, 24 Jul 2021 09:49:10 +0300

> From: Richard Stallman <rms@gnu.org>
> Date: Fri, 23 Jul 2021 21:14:23 -0400
> Cc: stefan@marxist.se, eliz@gnu.org, mullikine@gmail.com,
>  emacs-tangents@gnu.org
>   > > That's not what happens with these services: they don't _copy_ code
>   > > from other software (that won't work, because the probability of the
>   > > variables being called by other names is 100%, and thus such code, if
>   > > pasted into your program, will not compile).  What they do, they
>   > > extract ideas and algorithms from those other places, and express them
>   > > in terms of your variables and your data types.  So licenses are not
>   > > relevant here.
>   > According to online reviews chunks of code is copied even verbatim and
>   > people find from where. Even if modified, it still requires licensing
>   > compliance. 
> From what I have read, it seems that the behavior of copilot runs on a
> spectrum from the first description to the second description.  I
> expect that in many cases, nothing copyrightable has been copied, but
> in some cases copilot does copy a substantial amount from a
> copyrighted work.

It cannot be a verbatim copy, because at least the variables, and
sometimes also the data types, need to be renamed.  Whether the result
is still under the original copyright cannot be established without
actually comparing the two versions of the code.  So any general
flat rejection of the idea of these services on these grounds is not
serious, IMO.

Of course, someone like Jean will not use any code until a bunch of
lawyers submit an official opinion about the legal implications, but
IMO that's a radical view that doesn't make a lot of sense, especially
since none of the code accessible openly via the net can be
proprietary, for obvious reasons.  Jean could do whatever he
personally likes, but his radical views don't necessarily bind the GNU
project in general and Emacs in particular.

Moreover, ironically Jean bases his views on opinions and issues
expressed by clear opponents of Free Software.  The strongest drive
behind many of these blogs' aversion from these services is the fear
that GPL-licensed code creeps into proprietary software produced by
enterprises and their software subcontractors, because that would
require them to make the sources available or at least put them at a
risk of lawsuits.  It is a well-known fact that most, if not all,
software contracts for proprietary software nowadays include explicit
prohibition of using GPL-licensed code in the product.  It is those
people that serve these contracts and enterprises who drive the
whoop-la about licensing issues in code offered by these AI-based
services.  So before embracing their FUD and biased opinions, I really
suggest to actually look at the code, compare it with the original,
and make an independent assessment of both whether it's a "copy" from
the copyright POV and of the licenses of the original code.

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