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Lawsuit Takes Aim at the Way A.I. Is Built


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Codex became the building block for Copilot.

Nearly every new generation of technology — even online search engines — has faced similar legal challenges.

Credit: Jason Henry/The New York Times

In late June, Microsoft released a new kind of artificial intelligence technology that could generate its own computer code.

Called Copilot, the tool was designed to speed the work of professional programmers. As they typed away on their laptops, it would suggest ready-made blocks of computer code they could instantly add to their own.

Many programmers loved the new tool or were at least intrigued by it. But Matthew Butterick, a programmer, designer, writer and lawyer in Los Angeles, was not one of them. This month, he and a team of other lawyers filed a lawsuit that is seeking class-action status against Microsoft and the other high-profile companies that designed and deployed Copilot.

Like many cutting-edge A.I. technologies, Copilot developed its skills by analyzing vast amounts of data. In this case, it relied on billions of lines of computer code posted to the internet. Mr. Butterick, 52, equates this process to piracy, because the system does not acknowledge its debt to existing work. His lawsuit claims that Microsoft and its collaborators violated the legal rights of millions of programmers who spent years writing the original code.

From The New York Times
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