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
    anti fascist girl, 16 Dec 2009 @ 3:42pm

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

    Where do you get the idea that the legal definition of coercion must include being denied a constitutional right?
    I don't know for sure, but I don't THINK coercion depends on constitutional rights denial alone. Even if it did, there is a constitutional right to privacy (too long a history and reasoning to recount). THere is also a constitutional right wherein governments are prohibited from arbitrary search and seizure of one's personal papers (see fourth Amendment). Schools are governmental entities, and even colleges are government funded. Also, education is what is called a "positive right" in our country, meaning it is NOT a privilege but an actual right. Moreover, school is not just a right, but a requirement and children do not have the right NOT to attend school. And as far as college goes, if all of them do the same thing, there is no reasonable alternative (you can't just say: "I don't like this, I'll just not turn in my paper and switch scools.") It all adds up to coercion in my book and in any other reasonable person's book.

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