Story: Fourth Circuit's Turnitin.com Ruling Brings More Trouble for Plaintiffs
The Virginia Supreme Court just ruled that a private company, Turnitin, has the right to archive the complete text of students essays (without their consent, or against their direct request) under the fair use claim. Plagiarism
Turnitin is a private, for-profit company. They archive student essays in a giant database, and allow teachers to check the 'originality' of other essays by a proprietary algorithm that compares them to the archived text.
Two straight A students in Virginia didn't like the idea of being assumed to be de facto plagiarists, and filed a suit. They filed for official copyright of their papers with the federal government, and also included instructions that "the papers not be archived via Turnitit" -- of course, they were anyway.
First of all, hats off to these students -- I love the way they executed this, and had everything in order for the suit, and I hope they appeal the case.
As for the fair use law -- it's a victory, and as a news / journalistic site, we should be happy. But it is still unsettling that a private company is being allowed to archive student essays, AGAINST the request of the author. You could envision dozens of reasons a student wouldn't want their work seen by anyone beside the instructor (they reveal something very personal, it's a draft of a larger project, etc). Especially if the students are writing THIS IS NOT TO BE ARCHIVED on the essays. Shouldn't authors be able to own the copyright to the work? Further, should this company be allowed to profit off the essays of the students? Surely, the value of Turnitin increases exponentially with each essay added, and with each iteration the essasy is being referenced. Should the students not be entitled to a royalty payment every time the system reads the essay? The company claims to prevent plagarism, but seems to make money off outright copying of students work, without their consent.
Let's get some reader thoughts - comment below.
Here is a 2007 article from the Washington Post that gives some more background:McLean Students Sue Anti-Cheating Service - 3/28/2007