Are Meta’s Open AI ventures really that open? In announcing Llama 2, the latest programme in its ventures, Meta said larger users won’t be granted access to the model in the same way smaller companies and individual developers will. 

Any company hoping to use Llama 2 with a user base of 700 million active users a month or more is required to “request” use of the model. Meta “in its sole discretion” will decide if such a company will be given access, according to the licence. In such a situation, Meta said the only way for a large company or platform to use Llama 2 is if it “expressly grants you such rights.”

By having such a restriction, Llama 2 does not meet the standards of open source. So is it just to call it an OpenAI programme? Meta is so far promoting it as such calling it one of the most powerful large language models out there, and an open source AI offering from one of the biggest tech companies in the world.

“The licence that has been used by Llama 2 and Facebook is not an open source licence and would not be qualified as an open source licence because it contains restrictions on commercial needs,” says Stefano Maffulli, executive director of the OSI (Open Source Initiative). By having such a restriction, Llama 2 does not meet the standards of open source. These standards are maintained by the nonprofit OSI, which also reviews whether software licences can be approved as open source. 

The OSI is currently leading a series of meetings and debates and accepting proposals to formally define what open source means when it comes to AI and the machine learning it uses. Yet, the way Meta is offering Llama 2 does not even meet the basic requirement of any open source licence. 

According to the OSI’s Open Source Definition, an open source software licence “shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate software distribution containing programs from several different sources.” 

That Meta is even promoting Llama 2 as “open source” is troubling to the OSI who have said the meaning of the term is being diluted by Meta’s improper use.

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