The good: Fewer resource constraints. The bad: Inherited code with unknown restrictions. The ugly: License conflicts with potential legal implications.
Citing the Stack Overflow survey noted above, Tomasello underscored in the webinar that we are well on our way to adopting an industry-wide shift toward AI-assisted programming. While beneficial from a resource and timing constraint perspective, lazy or insecure use of AI can mean a whole world of trouble.
AI tools like Copilot and ChatGPT function based on learning algorithms that use vast repositories of public and open source code. These models then use the context provided by their users to suggest lines of code to incorporate into proprietary projects. At face value, this is tremendously helpful in speeding up development and minimizing resource limitations. However, given that open source was used to train these tools, it is essential to recognize the possibility that a significant portion of this public code is either copyrighted or subject to more restrictive licensing conditions.
The worst-case scenario is already playing out; earlier this year, GitHub and OpenAI faced groundbreaking class-action lawsuits that claim violations of copyright laws for allowing Copilot and ChatGPT to generate sections of code without providing the necessary credit or attribution to original authors. The fallout from these and inevitable future lawsuits remains to be seen, but the litigation is something that no organization wants to face.
The danger here is therefore not the use of generative AI tools, but the failure to complement their use with tools capable of identifying license conflicts and their potential risk.