Copyright is a double-edged sword, and those who sharpen one side often get cut by the other.
Two weeks ago we reported that the new Healthcare.gov website had stripped the copyright notice from one of the scripts it used. This blatant act of ‘piracy’ prompted us to take a closer look at the websites of several anti-piracy organizations, and today we present our findings.
As it turns out the U.S. Government is not the only one violating copyright licenses. The websites of music industry groups RIAA and BPI also use infringing code.
On both sites we found open source JQuerys scripts that are released under the MIT license. This license permits any person or organization to use, copy, modify, merge, distribute, or even sell copies of the software. There’s only one condition users have to agree to; that the original copyright notice stays intact.
Ironically, the scripts used on the RIAA and BPI websites have the copyright licenses removed.
BPI uses the depreciated template script jQuery.tmpl.min.js, and as can be seen below, yesterday there was no reference to the MIT license or the copyright holder listed at the top of the file.
The image below shows what the 2011 copy of the script should look like, with the proper copyright credits and applicable licenses included.
The RIAA makes a similar mistake with the image slider plugin jquery.orbit.min.js. This software is copyrighted by the design firm ZURB but the version in use at the RIAA website yesterday fails to mention this, or the MIT license.
Here is what a copy of ZURB’s plugin should look like when the copyright holder and MIT license are properly mentioned.
TorrentFreak asked both RIAA and BPI for a comment yesterday. RIAA said it was looking into the issue and appears to have added the copyright notice now (Internet archive copy). BPI has not responded to our question but clearly received our email as they also updated the file with proper credits (cf. Internet archive).
These type of violations are not unique, and can be found in many websites all over the Internet. Still, from outfits whose raison d’être is protecting copyrights, we have to expect that these issues are carefully checked.
The violations were probably caused by the web developers who coded the RIAA and BPI sites. We doubt that any of the higher ranked executives know about it, but next time they may want to instruct their coders to keep their site free from copyright infringements.
This is not the first time that an anti-piracy group has been accused of pirating software. A few years ago the MPAA removed the linkware license form Patrick Robin’s Forest Blog software. The movie industry group later said that this was a mistake, and it was only used for testing purposes.
Instant Update: A final check upon publication revealed that RIAA and BPI both fixed the infringements, probably more swiftly than the average website processes DMCA requests. Neither group provided a comment on the copyright violations.