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Obamacare sites pirated copyrighted web scripts

Published time: October 18, 2013 16:52
Edited time: October 19, 2013 17:40
Screenshot from healthcare.gov

Screenshot from healthcare.gov

The list of complaints waged at the White House over its Healthcare.gov site continues to grow, but the latest incident involving the online home of the Affordable Care Act is one that could end with legal action being taken.

The main “Obamacare” website has been marred with bugs and glitches since it went online over two weeks ago, and the problems are still piling up. Now according to The Weekly Standard, the Department of Health and Human Services could be sued by the British developers who coded part of the site but were never credited.

Standard reporter Jeryl Bier noted on Thursday that one of the scripts used in powering Healthcare.gov is called DataTables, and it was released by a British company called SpryMedia on condition that anyone who utilized the open-source software provide proper attribution.

“DataTables is free, open source software that you can download and use for whatever purpose you wish, on any and as many sites you want,” Bier quotes from SpryMedia’s website. “It is free for you to use! DataTables is available under two licenses: GPS v2 license or a BSD (3-point) license, with which you must comply (to do this, basically keep the copyright notices in the software).”

HHS, apparently, didn’t read that memo and now might end up in hot water. Bier has provided a number of examples showing how the Obama administration essentially pilfered the code piece-by-piece, except for the attribution that its developers insisted be included.

The Standard said a representative for SpryMedia said they were “extremely disappointed” to hear about the misuse and would be pursuing the matter further with HHS. According to Bier, the company could pursue legal action over the unauthorized use of its copyrighted web script.

SpryMedia’s Allan Jardine, the author of the script utilized on HealthCare.gov, told RT over Twitter that it was “[E]xcellent to see DataTables being used!”

“Leaving the copyright head in place isn’t too much to ask,” he added along with a smiling emoticon. 

@apblake Excellent to see DataTables being used! Leaving the copyright header in place isn't too much to ask :-).

— Allan (@DataTables) October 18, 2013

Jardine added, however, that he had no plans to file suit.

The incident comes amid ongoing reports about a number of issues that have plagued Healthcare.gov and other Obamacare websites since they went online on the first of the month. One week after the Oct. 1 launch, CNBC health care reporter Dan Mangan wrote that as few as 1-in-100 applications submitted through the federal exchange system contained enough information to properly enroll that person in one of the president’s plans. A week later, Andrew Couts of the website Digital Trends determined that the cost of getting those sites up-and-running exceeded $500 million, making them more expensive than the likes of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that Jardine does not intend on suing, despite insistence otherwise from the Weekly Standard.

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