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Obama Administration Uses Pirated Code on Healthcare.gov

The new Obamacare website Healthcare.gov has had its fair share of problems over the past weeks, and the trouble continues.

As it turns out, the Government website uses the open source software DataTables, which is a plug-in for the jQuery Javascript library.

While using open-source software is fine, the makers of Healthcare.gov decided to blatantly remove all references to its owners or the original copyright license.

In other words, they simply took the open-source software and are passing it off as their own, a clear violation of the GPL v2 and BSD (3-point) licenses DataTables uses.

[Story Continues Here]

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (15+ / 0-)

    Atheistic Determinist and Contemplative Contrarian.

    by ShockandAwed on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 01:14:42 PM PDT

  •  References where exactly? (0+ / 0-)

    Is there a user manual?

    First they came for the slippery-slope fallacists, and I said nothing. The End.

    by Cream Puff on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 01:20:25 PM PDT

    •  ... (5+ / 0-)

      Inside the container. In the program internals the code writers and company place their credentials.

      It is exceedingly easy to not do what was done. They were allowed to use the code. There isn't a legitimate reason to strip the code of identifiers.

      It is a bumble.

      Atheistic Determinist and Contemplative Contrarian.

      by ShockandAwed on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 01:26:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not really a legitimate reason (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Hey338Too

        But it's not illegal. Read my comment farther down (and the TorrentFreak comments) for why.

        matthewborgard.com ~ @MatthewBorgard

        by zegota on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 01:37:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  BSD 3-point (0+ / 0-)

          You're not allowed under the BSD license to remove the authorship information.

          Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves. - William Pitt

          by Phoenix Rising on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 02:35:52 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  yes you most certainly are (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            HiKa, AaronInSanDiego

            allowed to strip the authorship information. But you have to put it back if, and only if, you pass that code on to someone else. A fine point but the essence of open software licensing. So. If it was a contractor doing the stripping then yes, they violated the license when they passed the result to the gov. If someone in the gov wrote the code using that library then no, they didn't 'pirate' it because they didn't redistribute to someone else.

            47 is the new 51!

            by nickrud on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 03:18:06 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  It's ok so long as (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CroneWit

    they have their Letter of Marque

  •  I hate it when they violate... (7+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MartyM, Yoshimi, Short Bus, Birdman, Sylv, Kevskos, J Rae

    the GPL v2 and BSD (3-point) licenses DataTables uses.

    /snark

    I'm not paranoid or anything. Everyone just thinks I am.

    by Jim Riggs on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 01:20:48 PM PDT

  •  Shocked, I am simply shocked! (13+ / 0-)

    That for-profit private sector IT companies would engage in such actions after taking public money.

    I really have to agree with the Congresscritters who have been pointing to the problems with the site underlining the need for serious reform to the way in which government contracts are filled.

  •  I don't get it (0+ / 0-)

    if the code is "Open Source" why can't they use it?

    In theory that's a wonderful bargain for taxpayers (as opposed to paying a Canadian (gasp, horror) company to do the job.

    •  Open Source code has specific rules (8+ / 0-)

      regarding attribution. You can't just use it willy-nilly. That said, I'm not entirely convinced that Healthcare.gov broke those rules.

      matthewborgard.com ~ @MatthewBorgard

      by zegota on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 01:32:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The authors of the library seem to think (3+ / 0-)

        that healthcare.gov violated the license. From the story:

        SpryMedia, the company behind Data Tables told The Weekly Standard that they are “extremely disappointed” with the rip off and they will follow the issue up with the Department of Health and Human Services, who run Healthcare.gov.

        To believe that markets determine value is to believe that milk comes from plastic bottles. Bromley (1985)

        by sneakers563 on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 02:00:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That doesn't follow from what they said (0+ / 0-)

          If a company stripped my attribution, I'd be peeved and I'd try to get them to restore it. Doesn't mean what they did is against the law.

          matthewborgard.com ~ @MatthewBorgard

          by zegota on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 08:08:54 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  ... (6+ / 0-)

      It is open source... with the authors name on it. These type of plugins, containers and code libraries are used all the time... for free, legally. It is unusual for a company to strip the code of identifying markers in violation of the license.

      Though it does happen, to do so on a major project, knowing that it is easily determinable, is unusual.

      Atheistic Determinist and Contemplative Contrarian.

      by ShockandAwed on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 01:35:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Open source is not the same as public domain (8+ / 0-)

      The authors of open source software often retain the copyright to the work and attach certain restrictions to its use. For instance, software licensed under the GNU Public License can only be used in other open source projects. It can not be used in a commercial product if the source code is not available to the end user. The intent is to encourage the growth of open source projects in general, and prevent companies from taking open source code and profiting from it without returning anything of value.

      In contrast, code that is in the public domain can be used without restriction.

      In this case, the government web site has used a piece of open source code but violated the terms of the licensing. Why they chose to remove the license is a bit of a mystery, but sometimes the government disallows the use of open source software because of security concerns (they like to have someone to hold responsible for problems). Perhaps CGI was or someone else was trying to hide the fact that it was an open source library.

      To believe that markets determine value is to believe that milk comes from plastic bottles. Bromley (1985)

      by sneakers563 on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 01:58:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Very interesting. Thank you. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sneakers563
      •  for personal use (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        HiKa, sneakers563

        or even corporate, in house use the BSD-3 license is indistinguishable from public domain. OSS licensing, except for the very few that disallow any commercial use, is not about restricting use, as your first sentence says. It's all about redistribution. You cannot redistribute without including the source code, including the changes you've made. The BSD-3 also requires acknowledging the original copyright owners when redistributing, so whether or not this was in violation of the license really hinges on who added the library to the project. Gov programmer? No violation. Contractor? Violation.

        47 is the new 51!

        by nickrud on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 03:28:09 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I would say that restrictions on redistribution (0+ / 0-)

          are restrictions on use. I was trying to be generic in my language and explain that the original author does not renounce all rights to the work. But yes, you're otherwise right.

          To believe that markets determine value is to believe that milk comes from plastic bottles. Bromley (1985)

          by sneakers563 on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 04:28:08 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  the restriction is on how the software (0+ / 0-)

            is shared, not how it is used. It may seem like a minor difference, but not once, in all the years i followed gnu development, did anyone once conflate inhouse modification and use of Free software with the act of sharing it.

            47 is the new 51!

            by nickrud on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 08:32:07 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, so it was the ... (0+ / 0-)

          ... contractor that sold the use of the code to the Federal Government that has to respect the license ... and quite likely doesn't, since Federal outsourcing of this kind of thing goes to the people with expertise in getting government contracts, which are not very often the kind of higher quality developers that are likely to fully respect the terms of whatever open source software that they may use.

          Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

          by BruceMcF on Sat Nov 02, 2013 at 12:43:34 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Are you sure about this? (0+ / 0-)
          Gov programmer? No violation. Contractor? Violation.
          It's something I've wondered about before as an employee of a government contractor, but haven't seen a clear answer.

          Gondwana has always been at war with Laurasia.

          by AaronInSanDiego on Sat Nov 02, 2013 at 12:48:47 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Since the code itself ... (0+ / 0-)

            ... allows use under either GPLv2 or BSD, yes ... under BSD, if that was a government employee using it for their own purposes, that is fine. If that is a contractor, they at the very least need to acknowledge the source.

            Note why they have to acknowledge the source is exactly why they don't seem to have done so: it reduces the lock into the work of the contractor if important parts of the support functions can be used as-is by the rival bidder because they are actually open-source software.

            Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

            by BruceMcF on Sat Nov 02, 2013 at 12:55:54 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  use on a website isn't redistribution nt (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sneakers563

        Praxis: Bold as Love

        by VelvetElvis on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 03:43:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Saw this on twitter: (18+ / 0-)
    Obamacare. Even without a working website, it's still twice as popular as the GOP.

    We've been spelling it wrong all these years. It's actually: PRO-GOP-ANDA

    by Patriot4peace on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 01:29:11 PM PDT

  •  When Did the Administration Write Their Code? nt (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    second gen, John DE, Mike S, buddabelly, Sylv

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 01:32:03 PM PDT

  •  As the comments point out (10+ / 0-)

    Using code is not the same as redistributing it. If the file had required that attribution be maintained in all forms (including binaries), then yes, it would be illegal to get rid of the copyright statements. As it stands, there's not an issue here.

    I have some experience with OSS copyright -- which doesn't mean I'm necessarily correct, but if you don't have experience in that area, you shouldn't assume any of this is obvious.

    Also, calling it 'piracy' is fucking absurd. TorrentFreak just used that word to try to point out the hypocrisy of the Obama Administration being gung-ho about copyright. Which, as someone who hates copyright in most forms, I can understand.

    matthewborgard.com ~ @MatthewBorgard

    by zegota on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 01:36:29 PM PDT

  •  It's basically (3+ / 0-)

    plagiarism. If they used the open source code they should attribute it correctly.  It's like removing all the meta data from another photographers photo that is in the public domain & claiming you took the shot yourself. They should fix this.

    “The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.” George Orwell

    by Tool on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 01:36:51 PM PDT

    •  Software is not (or shouldn't be) art (4+ / 0-)

      Every single algorithm in existence is equivalent to a mathematical formula. Comparing functional software with no UI elements to a photograph is like saying you should be able to copyright 2+2=4.

      matthewborgard.com ~ @MatthewBorgard

      by zegota on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 01:38:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  If gene sequences can be copyrighted . . . (0+ / 0-)

        . . . why not mathematical formulae?  I'll refer back to your point--don't make assumptions about this stuff based on common sense.  But this approaches the philosophical.

        Secrecy is a hot bed of vanity. - Joseph Brodsky They who have put out the people’s eyes reproach them for their blindness. – John Milton 1642

        by geomoo on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 02:34:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  actually I don't think they can be (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Kevskos

          I know that in the last year, a company that wanted to patent sequence for breast cancer genes lost in court. May have even been a SCOTUS case?

          Copyrighting gene sequences would bring a lot of research to a screeching halt, so most scientists would oppose it.

          I am not a lawyer, and have not researched all the court cases, but there has been dispute in this area, and people wanting to make sequencing data proprietary have been losing.

          •  ... (0+ / 0-)

            Patenting the genes of life is one of the greater issues of this century. I am, not surprisingly, opposed in every way possible.

            Atheistic Determinist and Contemplative Contrarian.

            by ShockandAwed on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 03:55:10 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  They have been patented (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            wasatch

            and the effect was not to bring research to a screeching halt; rather, it brought veils of secrecy even to publicly funded research.  This is one of the reasons for the incredibly convoluted response to Lyme Disease.  The recent court decision brings hope, but this is a hotly contested issue and one that indeed has had far-reaching effects on how research is shared, much as you surmise that it would.

            Secrecy is a hot bed of vanity. - Joseph Brodsky They who have put out the people’s eyes reproach them for their blindness. – John Milton 1642

            by geomoo on Sat Nov 02, 2013 at 08:52:18 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  secrecy of research is what I was getting at (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              geomoo

              Science proceeds in lots of small steps, with many people contributing to the whole, so if scientists are not sharing information with each other, it's very hard to make progress in understanding a subject.

              The breast cancer gene case does set a hopeful precedent, and it was a SCOTUS ruling.

              •  Yes, and it taints the motivation (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                wasatch

                Increasing the effect of the profit motive (we'll make money off the patent) and decreasing the effect of seeking knowledge and, let's be honest, recognition (we'll put an end to Lyme Disease).

                Secrecy is a hot bed of vanity. - Joseph Brodsky They who have put out the people’s eyes reproach them for their blindness. – John Milton 1642

                by geomoo on Sat Nov 02, 2013 at 10:08:35 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  OT, sort of but not really. (0+ / 0-)

    But I would really like to know if this true:

    States' insurance exchange websites cost taxpayers $1B; contractors often paid to do same job in different states

    But people in some of those states may disagree with how smoothly it's going. One thing's for sure: the federal tax dollars are pouring in. A CBS News analysis shows that the 15 states that opted to set up their own exchanges are spending more than $1.1 billion to launch and implement their own websites, often paying the same government contractors to do the same job in different states.
    Same code?  
    •  Would that be a bad thing? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Hayate Yagami, Brainwrap

      When Microsoft sells two copies of Microsoft Office, they aren't writing brand new code each time.

      matthewborgard.com ~ @MatthewBorgard

      by zegota on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 01:42:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's true, but this isn't the same thing. (0+ / 0-)

        But if it were the same thing, the more licenses one business, entity, person buys of Microsoft Office, the cheaper the licenses are.

        That was my point.

        But I'm still asking if this story is true.  Sometimes stories are aired and then later, more information comes out that doesn't necessarily make all of the original story true.

      •  True. And when we use dollars, we aren't making (0+ / 0-)

        new ones each time.

    •  Um..."doing the same job in different states" (3+ / 0-)

      ...does NOT mean that you shouldn't get paid for your time in both states.

      If I mow your lawn, then go next door and mow their lawn using the same lawn mower, I still get to charge each of you the same amount.

      If the website code for one state was nearly identical to that of another, yes, there should be some reduction of time/cost the second time around, but it's not a simple matter of making a copy and slapping it onto a second server.

    •  That actually seems rather smart to me... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FG, AaronInSanDiego

      ...from both the contractors' and the states' perspective.

      From the perspective of a contractor, it means they're able to save time and effort by specializing in terms of skill sets... if they've got one coder who knows the IRS's API backwards and forwards, they can then translate that knowledge into numerous projects. That incentivizes people who really know the down and dirty of this kind of project, rather than incentivizing more generalist knowledge, and results in a better product for the client as well as a better bottom line for the contractor.

      From the perspective of a state, it means they've got a contractor who is working with a whole bunch of other states, whose state exchange websites will be accomplishing pretty much the same thing and interfacing with pretty much the same systems from state to state. This means that the contractor is much more likely to know their stuff and to understand exactly what kinds of potential issues could pop up in implementation—and that they know that if they screw something up, it's going to get multiple clients pissed off at them rather than just one.

      I don't see how that's any kind of scandal at all.

      "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

      by JamesGG on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 02:11:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The scandal is the cost: Over a billion dollars. (0+ / 0-)

        The federal site didn't cost that much.

        Tell me where I'm wrong.  I can be corrected.  I'll listen.

        •  I can't speak to that part. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          AaronInSanDiego

          I don't know enough about the implementation challenges with the various APIs, or the kind of security needed on the sites, or any of the other myriad things that go into a production of that size and scope, to know if $66.7 million is a reasonable charge from a contractor for a state-based exchange website.

          Do you have any kind of baseline figures for projects of similar size and scope that would indicate that such a cost is well above the norm?

          "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

          by JamesGG on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 02:46:11 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  ****COUGH**** (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    zegota, FG

    The code wasn't pirated, they still have every right to use it.

    The Republican party has become the politburo of capitalism. It seeks to direct the direction this country is going NO MATTER WHAT WE THE PEOPLE THINK.

    by tarminian on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 01:38:16 PM PDT

  •  This appears to be "resolved"... (6+ / 0-)

    ... using the links from the article, the comments for the datatables.js files on healthcare.gov and github now match.  On to the next outrage!

    Looking through the bent backed tulips, To see how the other half lives, Looking through a glass onion - John Lennon and Paul McCartney

    by Hey338Too on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 01:49:36 PM PDT

    •  I hear the attribution was modified (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ShockandAwed, buddabelly, FG, astage4444

      in order to cover up Obama's secret involvement in the Benghazi cover up.

      Politics means controlling the balance of economic and institutional power. Everything else is naming post offices.

      by happymisanthropy on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 01:59:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  His mom jumped in her time machine to go (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Hey338Too

        back and put those ads in the Hawaiian papers. On her way back, she also stopped to make a few retroactive changes to that code. No problem.

        "You can never sink so low in life that you can't be a bad example for somebody." - my dad

        by briefer on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 02:46:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  The diarist should update the diary <nt> (0+ / 0-)

        Looking through the bent backed tulips, To see how the other half lives, Looking through a glass onion - John Lennon and Paul McCartney

        by Hey338Too on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 03:14:41 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  ... (0+ / 0-)

          It is a story. I didn't write it, only passing it on to another audience.

          Atheistic Determinist and Contemplative Contrarian.

          by ShockandAwed on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 03:47:34 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  The story is from Oct 19... (0+ / 0-)

            ... and the facts have changed.  You are the one making the representation, and not everyone is going to click through to the story and compare the data in the links.  As it stands the diary is a misrepresentation of how things are today.

            Looking through the bent backed tulips, To see how the other half lives, Looking through a glass onion - John Lennon and Paul McCartney

            by Hey338Too on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 04:40:28 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  But you put up this post. (0+ / 0-)

            You have the ability to publish an update to the Daily Kos version of this post.

            It's your responsibility to ensure that your audience on this site is given this important piece of information, given that it apparently resolves the issue set forth in your post.

            You don't get to pass that off by saying you're just "passing the piece on."

            "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

            by JamesGG on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 04:44:37 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Actually, no. It WAS an issue. It has been (6+ / 0-)

    corrected. By the private contractor who wrote the code for the website.

    I'd like to start a new meme: "No means no" is a misnomer. It should be "Only 'Yes' means yes." Just because someone doesn't say "No" doesn't mean they've given consent. If she didn't say "Yes", there is no consent.

    by second gen on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 01:55:20 PM PDT

  •  On FOX News tonight we will see (5+ / 0-)

    a story about how Darrell Issa has proof that the President actually went in and removed the attribution himself thereby making the title of this diary accurate in both fact and intention.

    Most of the people taking a hard line against us are firmly convinced that they are the last defenders of civilization... The last stronghold of mother, God, home and apple pie and they're full of shit! David Crosby, Journey Thru the Past.

    by Mike S on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 01:58:13 PM PDT

  •  Oh noes! We must repeal it at once n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OleHippieChick
  •  Your title comes off so pissy, inflammatory. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nickrud, Hey338Too

    The site creation was subbed out to a private corp [losers, agreed],
    Why, how, would Pres Obama and admin have anything to do with the code?
    OK, Sebelius did take full responsibility. Amends can be made, credit can be given or whatever is needed. And quickly, too, with properly qualified personnel. THE Talent should have been used to set it up, not some schlubs who'd already failed. That, I don't get.
    And wouldn't the [loser] IT corp be the ones to have used/"pirated" the code?
    Jayz. This just smacks of the picayune.
    I don't like it. Sorry.

    "He went to Harvard, not Hogwarts." ~Wanda Sykes
    Join me at Twitter.
    Blessinz of teh Ceiling Cat be apwn yu, srsly.

    by OleHippieChick on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 02:08:46 PM PDT

  •  OK, SandA, I see you used "torrentstream's" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hey338Too

    title verbatim. It still sucks.

    "He went to Harvard, not Hogwarts." ~Wanda Sykes
    Join me at Twitter.
    Blessinz of teh Ceiling Cat be apwn yu, srsly.

    by OleHippieChick on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 02:14:37 PM PDT

  •  The major reason I can see why this was done (0+ / 0-)

    is that someone was mis-representing that this code was written under contract and used as justification for payment.  This could have been a company or an individual.

    The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

    by nextstep on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 02:32:33 PM PDT

  •  This is great news (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    briefer

    Now we know where there are some software folks who actually understand the software.  Let's get them on the case!

  •  tempest in a teapot (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hey338Too

    the only way the license could have been violated is if a contractor included the code in their work and gave it to the gov unattributed. The gov hasn't passed the code on to anyone else so by definition it hasn't violated the license.

  •  The license only applies for redistribution (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hey338Too, AaronInSanDiego

    Were they to package the site so that somebody could run it on their laptop (yeah right), they'd have to include the license.  

  •  I discovered something too!!!!!! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AaronInSanDiego

    The .PNG file (main body image) on healthcare.gov on the page right after you select "Texas" is 775K!!!

    That's about 760K too much!!!

    Who is this communist graphic artist that doesn't know how to save images for the web???

    This is costing load time, and taxpayer money.

    When will this be resolved????????

    Get Andrew Breitbart on the phone. Oh wait. He's dead.

    Open source means you can remove copyright info and any markup in the code.

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