Burglary tools

In many places, having a hammer and crowbar is entirely legal. They are useful tools for everyday work. However, get caught carrying them late at night while in a neighborhood you don’t live in and you could be charged with possession of burglary tools. Context and intent are important.

GitHub Copilot is a new tool being marketed as “your AI pair programmer”. Critics point out that Copilot was trained on open source code and demonstrate the tool copying licensed code line-for-line. For many reasons this is problematic for anyone intending to use this code commercially.

GitHub is marketing Copilot wrong. Presenting the tool as an aid for programmers to create commercial products is stepping into burglary tools territory.

Where Copilot could really shine and be marketed with less criticism is as a training tool. Even experienced programmers need a reminder, tutorial, or how-to on occasion. Using Copilot as “your AI study buddy” would be good and more palatable to critics.

This wouldn’t stop the code Copilot generates from being used in commercial products or solve the problems of how it was trained and functions. Those still need to be solved. But if GitHub showed a better intent up front, that might encourage better use.