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Here’s Why we’re not convinced Meta’s LLaMa 2 is open-source

OSI stated that Meta restricted commercial use for some users, and also restricted the use of model and software for certain purposes.

FILE PHOTO: A 3D printed Facebook's new rebrand logo Meta is placed on laptop keyboard in this illustration taken on November 2, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

A public benefit corporation Open Source Initiative (OSI) has taken issue with Meta’s claim that it has made its latest large language model ‘LLaMa 2’ open-source in a partnership with Microsoft. Specifically, the OSI said that Meta has confused “open source” with “resources available to some users under some conditions” – two very different things, as per the corporation.

What is LLaMa 2? LLaMa 2 or ‘Large Language Model Meta AI 2’ is a collection of large language models (LLMs) that are used to power generative AI tools. You can read more about this model here.

LLaMa does not meet the criteria for open source: According to the OSI, an “Open Source” is a software under a license with specific characteristics, defined by the Open Source Definition (OSD). This includes non-discrimination against persons or groups or fields of endeavor.

“Meta’s license for the LLaMa models and code does not meet this standard; specifically, it puts restrictions on commercial use for some users (paragraph 2) and also restricts the use of the model and software for certain purposes (the Acceptable Use Policy),” said the OSI.

Accordingly, the OSI has asked Meta to “correct their misstatement.”


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Why it matters: LLaMa 2 was launched as a ‘more desirable’ version of  Meta’s first version of LLaMA, specifically because it was dubbed an ‘open-source’ resource for developers and businesses. However, by putting certain restrictions on the license, Meta seems to be wanting to have its cake and eat it too. As it is now, Meta’s policy hinders LLaMa’s usage in areas like regulated/controlled substances and use for critical infrastructure. This is rather odd considering during a meeting with investors, Meta said  it “wants everyone to be using this [LLaMa 2].”

Meta justifies why LLaMa 2 is not completely open source: During an earnings call, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, said the company partnered with Microsoft to make LLaMa 2 open source because it doesn’t have a public cloud offering.

“One of the things that you might have noticed is in addition to making this open through the open source license, we did include a term that for the largest companies, specifically ones that are going to have public cloud offerings, that they don’t just get a free license to use this. They’ll need to come and make a business arrangement with us,” said Zuckerberg.

However, by doing so, Meta is specifically putting restrictions on the use of the license which violates many of the criteria under the Open Source Definition. Despite this Zuckerberg insisted that the company wants LLaMa 2 to be open.

“But if you’re someone like Microsoft or Amazon or Google and you’re going to basically be reselling these services, that’s something that we think we should get some portion of the revenue for. So those are the deals that we intend to be making, and we’ve started doing that a little bit. I don’t think that that’s going to be a large amount of revenue in the near term. But over the long term, hopefully, that can be something,” said Zuckerberg.

Criteria for software to be considered open source:

Under the Open Source Definitions the following 10 criteria must be satisfied:

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  1. Free Redistribution – the license shall not restrict and not demand a royalty/fee from any party from selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate software distribution. As stated above, Zuckerberg has talked about why Meta fails to meet this requirement.
  2. Source Code – the program must include source code and allow distribution in source code as well as compiled form.
  3. Derived Works – the license must allow modifications and derived works, and must allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of the original software.
  4. Integrity of the Author’s Source Code – the license aims to maintain the integrity of the author’s source code by allowing distribution of patch files (instructions on how to modify the program’s code during the building process) for modifications but requiring distinct names for derived works.
  5. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups
  6. No Discrimination Against Fields for Endeavour
  7. Distribution of License – rights attacked to the program must apply to all whom the program is redistributed without the need for another license
  8. License must not be specific to a product
  9. License must not restrict other software
  10. License must be technology

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Written By

I'm interested in the shaping and strengthening of rights in the digital space. I cover cybersecurity, platform regulation, gig worker economy. In my free time, I'm either binge-watching an anime or off on a hike.

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