Llama Beans? Is That the LLM from Zuckbook?

August 4, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

We love open-source projects. Camelids that masquerade as such, not so much. According to The Register, “Meta Can Call Llama 2 Open Source as Much as It Likes, but That Doesn’t Mean It Is.” The company asserts its new large language model is open source because it is freely available for research and (some) commercial use. Are Zuckerburg and his team of Meta marketers fuzzy on the definition of open source? Writer Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols builds his case with quotes from several open source authorities. First up:

“As Erica Brescia, a managing director at RedPoint, the open source-friendly venture capital firm, asked: ‘Can someone please explain to me how Meta and Microsoft can justify calling Llama 2 open source if it doesn’t actually use an OSI [Open Source Initiative]-approved license or comply with the OSD [Open Source Definition]? Are they intentionally challenging the definition of OSS [Open Source Software]?'”

Maybe they are trying. After all, open source is good for business. And being open to crowd-sourced improvements does help the product. However, as the post continues:

“The devil is in the details when it comes to open source. And there, Meta, with its Llama 2 Community License Agreement, falls on its face. As The Register noted earlier, the community agreement forbids the use of Llama 2 to train other language models; and if the technology is used in an app or service with more than 700 million monthly users, a special license is required from Meta. It’s also not on the Open Source Initiative’s list of open source licenses.”

Next, we learn OSI‘s executive director Stefano Maffulli directly states Llama 2 does not meet his organization’s definition of open source. The write-up quotes him:

“While I’m happy that Meta is pushing the bar of available access to powerful AI systems, I’m concerned about the confusion by some who celebrate Llama 2 as being open source: if it were, it wouldn’t have any restrictions on commercial use (points 5 and 6 of the Open Source Definition). As it is, the terms Meta has applied only allow some commercial use. The keyword is some.”

Maffulli further clarifies Meta’s license specifically states Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Bytedance, Alibaba, and any startup that grows too much may not use the LLM. Such a restriction is a no-no in actual open source projects. Finally, Software Freedom Conservancy executive Karen Sandler observes:

“It looks like Meta is trying to push a license that has some trappings of an open source license but, in fact, has the opposite result. Additionally, the Acceptable Use Policy, which the license requires adherence to, lists prohibited behaviors that are very expansively written and could be very subjectively applied.”

Perhaps most egregious for Sandler is the absence of a public drafting or comment process for the Llama 2 license. Llamas are not particularly speedy creatures.

Cynthia Murrell, August 4, 2023


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