Turnitin Found Not To Violate Student Copyrights

from the might-be-a-good-thing-for-Google... dept

Last year, we noted that some students were suing iParadigms, the makers of "Turnitin" the excessively popular plagiarism checker used by many colleges and high schools. The professors feed student papers into the system, and it returns a "score" judging how likely the paper is to be plagiarized. However, it also takes a copy of each paper and includes it in its database for future plagiarism checks. This annoyed quite a few students who felt that this was copyright infringement -- using their papers in a commercial database.

However, a court has now rejected the students' arguments and found that Turnitin does not violate the copyright of the students for a variety of reasons. First there is the fact that students had to agree to the terms of the service to use it -- even if they were forced to by their schools. However, the court finds that this is a problem for the schools, not Turnitin. But, much more interesting is the rationale for why storing those papers is considered "fair use." Among other things, the court found that Turnitin isn't using the papers for their creative meaning and even though it stores the entire document, it doesn't really publish a full copy of it for others to see.

That becomes especially interesting given the current lawsuit concerning Google's scanning of books from various university libraries, as it may be able to note the similarities in this situation to Turnitin's. There are some differences -- and clearly, the publishers will claim that the impact on the commercial value is quite different (despite evidence to the contrary -- but this ruling is likely to help Google's position at least somewhat.

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  1. identicon
    ehrichweiss, 25 Mar 2008 @ 2:39pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Consent? not quite

    Clearly have a case for unauthorized distribution? Not as clear as you might think.

    The place to look is at the contract between the students and the schools. Chances are they're told that in order for their papers to count toward their grade, they have to allow it to be submitted to Turnitin. If that's the case, there's nothing that the students can do except refuse to take any classes that use the Turnitin service because that doesn't fall under the legal definition of coercion since they're not being denied a right granted by the Constitution; privilege: yes, right: no.

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