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GitHub CEO says EU AI Act shouldn't apply to open source devs

Lawmakers said to be trying to align on the basics by 'early March'

FOSDEM The EU's upcoming artificial intelligence legislation will define how the world regulates AI, warned GitHub CEO Thomas Dohmke, who thinks open source developers should be exempted from the AI Act.

Speaking at the Open Source Policy Summit in Brussels (at 04:05:00), the day before FOSDEM in the Belgian city, Dohmke noted that open source powers governments and corporations alike and is at the "heart of European values" because of its belief that "everything can be better with collaboration."

Making the case for lawmakers to take it easy on open sourcers, Dohmke said it was powering a "spring of innovation across the world and here in Europe," seeing it as GitHub's responsibility as the largest source code host to protect devs' rights to "innovation and equal opportunity."

The CEO said the policy could "well set a precedent for how the world regulates AI. It must be fair and balanced to the open source community." He added:

The compliance burden should fall on companies that are shipping products. OSS developers are often just volunteers. Many of them are working two jobs, they are hobbyists and scientists, academics and doctors, professors and university students alike, and they don't usually stand to profit from their contributions. They certainly don't have big budgets or their own compliance department.

Dohmke was speaking as EU lawmakers reportedly look towards achieving a consensus on draft AI rules – the first of their kind globally – as soon as early March and against the backdrop of increasing regulation against Big Tech in Europe.

Dragos Tudorache, co-rapporteur of the EU AI Act (one of the lawmakers leading the committee and coordinating decision-making), reportedly told Reuters: "We are still in good time to fulfill the overall target and calendar that we assumed in the very beginning, which is to wrap it up during this mandate," meaning the end of this year.

It will come as no surprise to developers working in the field that "this text has seen a level of complexity that is even higher than the typical Brussels complex machinery."

The law was first proposed in 2021 and is something of a legislative jewel for EU parliamentarians because the issue hasn't been comprehensively addressed in law before. There's also the small matter of nationalism being a thing again, despite the world's best efforts. Competition with the US and China – both home to companies frenziedly developing the tech – is fierce.

Those looking to influence the draft laws are in two camps: one that says you can't do enough to address "risks" from AI systems, and the other believing that stricter laws can stifle creativity and innovation. The latter is home to both corporate devs and open source types.

There is a tension here, with American think tank Brookings pointing out last year that the new law could prevent developers from releasing open source models, considering their own liability, thus ensuring the development of AI would be driven by large corporations. ®

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