Plagiarism Checker Sued For Copyright Infringement

from the irony-or-accuracy dept

Back in 2002 there was some discussion over whether or not, Turnitin, a popular plagiarism checker that many schools and universities use, was violating students' copyrights. The program worked by comparing any uploaded works to a large database of previous works. However, it would then add those new works to the larger database. Many students began to question not just why they were being treated as criminals first, but also why Turnitin was allowed to use their content in its database without first licensing the works from the students. While there had been occasional stories wondering something similar over the past few years, now it appears that two high school students have decided to step up and sue the company for copyright infringement. This could get interesting for a variety of reasons. The students clearly thought this out ahead of time -- registering the copyright on the papers, which gives them the ability to sue for statutory damages, rather than just be made whole. At least one also had explicit instructions in the paper that it not be included in the Turnitin database -- and those instructions were ignored. If Turnitin has registered under the DMCA, they could potentially claim safe harbor provisions (a la YouTube), pushing off the liability to the teachers and professors who actually uploaded the works, rather than Turnitin itself. However, it's not clear if the company will go that route or just claim that it's use isn't infringing at all. Either way, this should be an interesting case to follow.

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  1. identicon
    Crimsondestroyer, 30 Mar 2007 @ 11:35pm

    Consider High School

    Some High Schools use this service. The problem is that students are required to go there. Even if they where forced to sign a contract at the beginning of the school year it would likely be found that those contracts where invalid because they where made under duress.
    --Credit to someone on Slashdot who brought this up--
    Neal. Here is a thought to your book example. The service works more like this. I write a book and pay a company to check and see if I missed any of my references. While they are checking my book they also COPY the WHOLE THING, and use the copy to check other books. They continue to do this even after returning my book.
    In other words, if this service where not digital and actually made hardcopies of every work there would be no question about infringement.

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