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Students Settle With TurnItIn In Copyright Case

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the nobody-wants-to-read-your-awful-papers dept.

Education 208

An anonymous reader writes "With the deadline for a Supreme Court appeal rapidly approaching, the students who sued TurnItIn.com for issues surrounding copyright infringement reached a settlement with the site's company on Friday. Now the search goes out for any student who has a paper which is being held by TurnItIn that they did not upload themselves. If your teacher uploaded a paper and ran a TurnItIn report without your permission, I bet the students' attorney would like to hear from you."

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208 comments

Harlem (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28917567)

What's the most confusing day in Harlem? Father's day!

cotton niggers, sand niggers, rice niggers (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28917671)

kill all niggers

how do i find out if my teacher did that? (4, Interesting)

yincrash (854885) | more than 4 years ago | (#28917575)

can i search my name on turnitin.com?

Re:how do i find out if my teacher did that? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28917989)

If you are a student, and you suspect that a particular paper was submitted without your consent, contact the attorney and confidentially provide him with your paper.

If you are a TEACHER, and your school uses this service, and you think that it would benefit everyone to get a ruling on the legality of such a service, contact the attorney and offer to help,

With the combination of a student and a teacher, a test can be run on a PARAGRAPH from the paper in question, If it gets flagged as plagiarism, then the teacher can request that the paper gets emailed to him/her. This would provide the attorney with a test case for another challenge of this service.

Re:how do i find out if my teacher did that? (1)

spydabyte (1032538) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918027)

How do we contact the attorney? After a lot of link searching, there's no real contact information.

What if a teacher requires you to submit the paper for their class? Can you do anything then? (Asking because of a class discussion I had once as I do not want my work copyrighted by turnitin.com. It was basically decided that the teacher could do whatever they wanted. Where does the law come in on this?)

Re:how do i find out if my teacher did that? (3, Informative)

Chapter80 (926879) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918101)

it was on the anon-a-blog. ravar@nixonvan.com Bob Vanderhye, 703-442-0422.

I think TurnItIn's strategy is to make the schools make the students submit the papers (and agree to the terms). Many students have successfully challenged their teachers and their schools, saying that this requirement to submit to a PERMANENT ARCHIVE is wrong.

Re:how do i find out if my teacher did that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28918651)

Looks like you searched everywhere but TFA.

Re:how do i find out if my teacher did that? (3, Insightful)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 4 years ago | (#28919559)

And what about the more common case of being a student who was forced to upload things to turnitin or fail the class? Sounds like a pretty big bloody loophole to leave considering how easily schools can find various ways of blackmailing a student into "voluntarily" doing things.

Who is really hurt by such services? (0, Troll)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#28917595)

If I choose to torpedo my own future by electing to use a paper uploaded to turnitin, the only one hurt is me.

Or is it?

How many people with tons of promise got turned down/away because of their inability to express themselves in some random test?

In the company of fellow nerds here on Slashdot, I have no qualms revealing this, but I sucked at written essays. But my intelligence isn't proved in some one-time essay. It's all about how I create real solutions for real problems. It's never about some random problem that some dumbfuck in some ivory tower created.

Choosing to bypass testing is the right answer, no matter what the question.

Re:Who is really hurt by such services? (4, Insightful)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 4 years ago | (#28917673)

But my intelligence isn't proved in some one-time essay. It's all about how I create real solutions for real problems.

If you are incapable of taking a task, and expressing the solutition to said task in written form, then you're essentially sub-literate. Unless you're an astonishing genius, you're just a drain on your company due to your inability.

College doesn't test, train, or reward INTELLIGENCE. It tests, trains, and rewards LEARNING and ABILITY -- which are three very, very different things.

Choosing to bypass testing is the right answer, no matter what the question.

God, I would love to work for your competitor. "Sir, BadAnalogyGuy's company is beating us!" "Ok, just file a complaint. I'm sure that semi-literate guy did something wrong enough to slap them down."

Re:Who is really hurt by such services? (2, Insightful)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#28917755)

College doesn't test, train, or reward INTELLIGENCE. It tests, trains, and rewards LEARNING and ABILITY -- which are three very, very different things.

I always saw it as testing and rewarding obedience, and the submission to allowing strangers to set your goals and priorities and otherwise to direct your efforts, to take on their tasks as if they were your own with a diligence that lasts well into what would otherwise be your personal time. To me this is the trait college tests which employers would find desirable in terms of obedient workers who don't raise a fuss and are relatively easy to manage. Innate ability determines whether you must focus on the task itself or the willingness to complete it, and learning just means you can more readily incorporate this unwritten lesson. Otherwise, very little that I've seen of formal education (in any form) had to do with testing your personal limits or expanding your mind or pushing your boundaries. The emphasis on rote as opposed to arrival by experience is evidence enough of this fact.

Re:Who is really hurt by such services? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28918145)

I always saw it as testing and rewarding obedience, and the submission to allowing strangers to set your goals and priorities and otherwise to direct your efforts, to take on their tasks as if they were your own with a diligence that lasts well into what would otherwise be your personal time.

College rewards you in proportion to the effort you expend. If you spent your time doing nothing but what was asked of you, then you probably have a fair bit of experience in being submissive and obedient.

If you had chosen to explore your own initiatives, you would have a much different perspective.

Re:Who is really hurt by such services? (1, Insightful)

Repossessed (1117929) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918149)

You went to the wrong college then. Or maybe just had a liberal arts degree.

Try an actual science education.

Re:Who is really hurt by such services? (2, Insightful)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918277)

You went to the wrong college then. Or maybe just had a liberal arts degree.

Try an actual science education.

I refer not to subject matter but rather to the methods by which they teach and the spirit in which that is done.

Albert Einstein captured the essence of which I speak in a single sentence: "It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education."

Re:Who is really hurt by such services? (2, Insightful)

HadouKen24 (989446) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918371)

I have no idea how any halfway decent program in the liberal arts could possibly match Causality's description. My own professors definitely encouraged critical thinking and (at least attempts at) original analysis. It was, in fact, essential to understanding the material. One intended benefit was that students become better rounded, broader-minded people. A liberal arts education that attempts to create obedient, submissive students is not going to successfully teach the subject.

Re:Who is really hurt by such services? (2, Informative)

Repossessed (1117929) | more than 4 years ago | (#28919149)

My minor was in the humanities, and it was a bit of a mixed bag for me. A couple professors required us to have citations for everything in our papers. Most notably ethics, where I wasn't even allowed to talk about what my thoughts on Aristotle's ethics were, I had to have citations reporting what other people thought about it.

Of course, that professor got turned down for tenure.

Re:Who is really hurt by such services? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28919003)

lol I learned to question authority, that nothing is wrong that hurts no one, and that you can get away with almost anything if you're a mature person and take responsibility for your actions by cleaning it up yourself if something goes wrong. Oh and math and physics.

Re:Who is really hurt by such services? (1, Insightful)

Vuojo (1547799) | more than 4 years ago | (#28917857)

"Ok, just file a complaint. I'm sure that semi-literate guy did something wrong enough to slap them down."

I love how the Americans think that suing everybody is the best solution for every problem.

Re:Who is really hurt by such services? (1)

itsthebin (725864) | more than 4 years ago | (#28917907)

they can just charge the lawyer to their credit cards ...

oh wait.....

Re:Who is really hurt by such services? (5, Interesting)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#28917947)

"Ok, just file a complaint. I'm sure that semi-literate guy did something wrong enough to slap them down."

I love how the Americans think that suing everybody is the best solution for every problem.

That illness has a self-perpetuating nature, as does all aspects or expressions of "us against them." To sum it up, when you find yourself born and raised in an environment in which most recipients of most legitimate complaints are insensate and unreceptive, the "force of the law" nature of legal remedies become the only undeniable way to call attention to even the slightest injustice. All it really should take is for a person to stand up, with understanding, and call out those things which need to be addressed, to shine a light upon them and remove the shadows of excuses and other utilitarian purposes under which they are sheltered. By comparison, what we have now is not an underlying acknowledgement of human dignity or a celebration of harmony, but the primitive desire to avoid punishment.

It's such a precious thing, such an exquisite privilege, to put the lie to this pattern by nothing other than your living example of a higher order.

Re:Who is really hurt by such services? (2, Funny)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918365)

We like to kick everyone in the nuts, too, but that takes bit more work, not to mention the subspecies without nuts...

Re:Who is really hurt by such services? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28918735)

They could always just go on Slashdot and vent about those ugly Americans. Wouldn't accomplish anything but I guess they'd feel better!

Re:Who is really hurt by such services? (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918801)

How dare you!

We'll see us in court!

Oh... wait... ;)

Because most of us are ***holes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28919365)

Can't log in right now...

But here in the grand ole U.S. of A. our society gives and educates people with the -illusion- of their individuality, their own precious corporation of one, that they are special at least in their own mind.

If you approach someone with a loud stereo more often than not they get pissed off because you are infringing on -their- imagined rights (see loud Harleys or wake boat issues in the states).

We have no moderator, magistrate, or local social council for such issues, and more importantly we have a large population of people who are socially uneducated how to approach others, reasonably, to get the things they need from others because of the aforementioned individuality illusion.

Disregarding the greedy, the only option left to us is sue. IMHO.

Re:Who is really hurt by such services? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28917675)

You must be bored, at work or home. You've been trolling slashdot all morning long.

Re:Who is really hurt by such services? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28917681)

It would depend upon the job you are seeking. Recently a great guy, insightful, good instincts, and ethical, who dealt very well with people was let go before his status became permanent, mainly because he could not write in a cogent manner with any speed - it took him all day to write what most finished in an hour. Unfortunately, the job required judgment, dealing well with people AND depends, in the end, on writing skills.

Questionable moderation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28917731)

Parent post looks on-topic to me...

Re:Who is really hurt by such services? (4, Insightful)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#28917877)

But my intelligence isn't proved in some one-time essay.

Indeed. Your posting history is all the evidence we need.

Re:Who is really hurt by such services? (4, Insightful)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 4 years ago | (#28917979)

But my intelligence isn't proved in some one-time essay. It's all about how I create real solutions for real problems. It's never about some random problem that some dumbfuck in some ivory tower created. Choosing to bypass testing is the right answer, no matter what the question.

Testing is not perfect but it does have a useful purpose. Yes, everybody is unique blah, blah, but there are millions of students at all levels in the USA and you got to classify them somehow by ability, so what method do you propose? The right answer is to keep improving the testing methods, not to bypass testing. A good test should present something like real world problems and take into account the difference in priorities for engineering students, versus, say English students etc. And by the way, the ability to communicate, including in writing, is very important even for nerds.

Re:Who is really hurt by such services? (1)

JoshHeitzman (1122379) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918383)

you got to classify them somehow by ability

Why exactly is that?

Re:Who is really hurt by such services? (1)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 4 years ago | (#28919739)

So that graduate schools and employers have something to go by when selecting candidates. Besides, is it fair to a student who worked hard for four years to start from the same point as someone who partied the whole time?

Re:Who is really hurt by such services? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28918119)

But my intelligence isn't proved in some one-time essay. It's all about how I create real solutions for real problems. It's never about some random problem that some dumbfuck in some ivory tower created.

*wince*

I think that's about as much raw insecurity I can take.

Always did wonder (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28917603)

I always did wonder how these plagiarism detection things were able to legally continue to operate. They obviously have to hold copies of works that were not uploaded by the original authors to compare this stuff to. Are they not in mass violation of copyright? Are not the teachers who uploaded this stuff at least as guilty as file sharers, I mean after all, my term papers from college are way more useful than a new tune from Bittany.

Re:Always did wonder (4, Informative)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 4 years ago | (#28917771)

They obviously have to hold copies of works that were not uploaded by the original authors to compare this stuff to. Are they not in mass violation of copyright?

No. Go read the standard of fair use again.

"Academic purposes" are one of the black-letter exemptions. If this were a college doing the bundle and offering it for-free to all participants, instead of a private company making a buck, this wouldn't even be a problem.

Re:Always did wonder (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28918009)

No, go read the "standard of fair use" again yourself. Fair Use does _not_ allow mass copyright infringement for academic purposes. Never has. See "textbooks". Fair use is about excerpts, not wholesale mass copyright infringement.

Re:Always did wonder (3, Insightful)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918251)

I assume you're referring to the fact that it would be an infringement if someone sold photocopied knockoff textbooks?

Get back to us when Turnitin start buying and selling essays. By essays I mean the full text in its entirety. Not excerpts, not metadata, not statistics derived from them.

Re:Always did wonder (1)

Courageous (228506) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918647)

They are first party to copies made in entirety to their servers, aren't they? (This question is rhetorical, I don't know the answer) A better way would be to have the hashcode algorithm run by the submitter, and only the hashcodes uploaded. This would be, IMO, a sustainable fair use argument.

C//

Re:Always did wonder (2, Insightful)

calmofthestorm (1344385) | more than 4 years ago | (#28919021)

yes, but this wouldn't work as well. turnitin intends to catch running a paper through a theosaurus or rewriting the occasional sentence/paragraph. Change a single letter and you defeat hashing

That's not how "copyright" works (1)

jkhuggins (460033) | more than 4 years ago | (#28919515)

Obligatory disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer.

Copyright doesn't grant a universal right to control a creative work. Keep in mind that the purpose of copyright is to *encourage* more creative works, not less; in doing so, copyright law will grant certain limited rights of control to the copyright owner in order to encourage more work.

The famous "fair use" test provides an exemption to copyright law, and depends upon the famous four point test [wikipedia.org] . Basically, courts can consider four issues in determining whether or not use of other works without permission is allowable:

  1. The purpose and character of the use of the work. If the use of the work creates something "new" rather than just providing a copy, the use is more likely to be allowable. Educational use is also more allowable than commercial use, but this isn't an absolute trump card.
  2. The nature of the work being copied. You can't copyright facts or ideas, only expressions thereof.
  3. The amount and substantiality of the work being copied. In general, the less you copy, the better; even then, though, what you copy matters. (The last minute of Citizen Kane is a little more key to understanding the movie than, say, a random minute from the middle of the movie.)
  4. The effect of the use upon the value of the work. Does the copy provide enough of a substitute that people would be less likely to buy the original? If so, the copy is less likely to be allowable. This doesn't affect criticism, however ... a negative review of a book or movie might have an impact on its sales, but that doesn't make quoting the book or movie a violation of fair use

Now, this isn't an all-or-nothing or add-up-the-points analysis. Courts take all matters into consideration.

In the actual decision [turnitin.com] , the court ruled:

  1. The plagiarism detector was definitely a "new work" created from the old works, and therefore was likely to be permissable.
  2. The nature of the work was not a factor in the decision, either way.
  3. The amount of the work was not a factor in the decision; while whole works were used, they were only used in limited ways (i.e. to compare for plagiarism).
  4. The use of the papers did not affect the market value of the works, therefore favoring the use.

On the whole, then, the tool was deemed to be fair use.

Gary Mckinnon (1)

RichardJenkins (1362463) | more than 4 years ago | (#28917643)

Why don't they just recruit Gary McKinnon? He may not be the greatest ever to have compromised a US military computer, but he could sure warn them of the dangers in leaving default passwords set.

"Citation Needed" (2, Funny)

Warhawke (1312723) | more than 4 years ago | (#28917667)

Anyone else find it exceedingly ironic that the slashdot summary was lifted word-for-word from Anon-a-blog?

Re:"Citation Needed" (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28917769)

As author of both the anon-a-blog and the submission, I am cool with that!

Re:"Citation Needed" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28918089)

As a co-author of both anon-a-blog and the submitted entry, I'm cool with it too!

Re:"Citation Needed" (1)

Xtense (1075847) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918333)

As somebody completely unrelated to the submitted entry or Anon-a-blog, I'm also pretty much cool with it!

Classic Moment from the Appeal (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28917705)

One of my favorite points in the Appeal was when Mr. Vanderhye made a point about the security of TurnItIn.

I can't quote it exactly... but when he made the point, nearly EVERY head nodded, including the three appellate judges. It was one of those made-for-TV moments. This was right around the time of the US Presidential election:

something like "You can bet if Barack Obama's or Sarah Palin's high school papers were stored on the *most secure server* on the internet, they would have been hacked. There's no doubt that a site with the lax security of TurnItIn would be hacked."

Man, ya shoulda been there!

Talk to your professor, opt out (5, Interesting)

Grant The Great (562818) | more than 4 years ago | (#28917717)

Seriously, each professor that I had that used this service specifically mentioned it the first day and it was written in the syllabus. I brought up an objection with each professor and they had no issue with me opting out and them presumably just googling various sentences in my papers. It wasn't an issue, the professors agreed with me when I voiced my objections about the privacy, copyright ownership, data retention, presumption of innocence, etc. The only reason that they used it was because the department head dictated it.

Exercise your rights. It's your paper. Remember, professors are people just like you. While they may believe you to be paranoid, they won't hold it against you if you voice your concerns with logic, passion, and conviction.

Mod Parent +1 Insightful (1)

Carl.E.Pierre (1223962) | more than 4 years ago | (#28917763)

This is one of those times that i am angry at myself for wasting my Mod points. Very good response sir!

Re:Talk to your professor, opt out (5, Insightful)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 4 years ago | (#28917841)

they had no issue with me opting out

You do not have to, and should not have to, opt out of your creative works being infringed.

The only reason that they used it was because the department head dictated it.

If the department dictated that the professor should take your laptop, sell it on eBay, and give the money to some third party corporation, would you see the professor as having done no wrong? This corporation is building its cashflow on your creative work, without license. If they want to come to you and negotiate a deal to use your creative work in their business model, fine. Until then, it is yours.

Re:Talk to your professor, opt out (3, Interesting)

Grant The Great (562818) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918019)

You do not have to, and should not have to, opt out of your creative works being infringed.

You are absolutely right. This should be an opt in service with waiver or contract, unfortunately that's not the case. Complaining about it isn't going to fix it unless you can provide pressure to the people higher up in the food chain or by legal means. I was, however, a poor college student so I could only fight my own battles.

If the department dictated that the professor should take your laptop, sell it on eBay, and give the money to some third party corporation, would you see the professor as having done no wrong? This corporation is building its cashflow on your creative work, without license. If they want to come to you and negotiate a deal to use your creative work in their business model, fine. Until then, it is yours.

The main problem with this is, like another poster put it, every school has bylaws/student contracts/whatever o specifically say that they can do whatever they want with your work. While I completely and totally disagree with this, unless it's overturned in court or changed, it will continue to be the "law of the land." If they had provisions in said contract that you signed to take your possessions, then there's nothing you can do about it except challenge it.
I am not a revolutionary. I cared about my own work and acted to protect it, if everyone else cared as much then this wouldn't be a problem. This corporation is making money on others work, not mine. It is not my fault that the system is flawed, it is my problem though. It is not my problem that others do not see it our way, though it maybe my fault for not speaking out. At the end of the day, I can only act to protect myself, the fact that others are so apathetic or obedient to the system there isn't much I can do given time and money constraints. Though if someone organized a protest or petition drive to overturn this, I would certainly support it.

Re:Talk to your professor, opt out (1)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918369)

I didn't mean my post to be an attack on you. More on the system.

A big part of "the system" is that the system pushes us to "be reasonable." To find reasonable solutions to problems, as you did.

The problem with that is while we are being reasonable, the corporations are being sociopathic. That is a recipe for a steady slide.

I'm just trying to encourage you and others to be unreasonable. It is the reasonable thing to do when presented with an unreasonable system.

Of course, the system punishes those who do not conform. That implies that there are times you should choose not to fight or choose a less confrontational approach. This may be one of them.

But if we all keep being reasonable, this great experiment will continue to crumble. Not your fault, per se, just a fact.

Re:Talk to your professor, opt out (2, Insightful)

Miseph (979059) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918847)

"That implies that there are times you should choose not to fight or choose a less confrontational approach."

Only if you're being reasonable.

Re:Talk to your professor, opt out (1)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918241)

I think you're severely overstating the problem.

My uni made it clear that they reserved the right to use turnitin for certain assignments, as a condition of enrolment, and I would guess other universities would do the same. So, it's not technically opt out as it is making an exception for your opting in.

And the fact that it's head department policy is neither here nor there. The university wants it, you agreed to it, make a deal if you want an exception.

Re:Talk to your professor, opt out (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28917919)

If anyone has an essay they wrote to opt out of the service with their professors, can I have it? I don't feel like writing my own.

Re:Talk to your professor, opt out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28917967)

Each professor that you had that you know used this service specifically mentioned it the first day.

Re:Talk to your professor, opt out (-1, Troll)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918013)

Seriously, each professor that I had that used this service specifically mentioned it the first day and it was written in the syllabus. I brought up an objection with each professor and they had no issue with me opting out

Aren't you a precious little snowflake? I assume your parents are big donors to the school.

The profs should given you two options - put up and shut up, or an F. I suspect most teachers have better uses for their time than googling random phrases, especially when the college is already paying for an automated method.

Re:Talk to your professor, opt out (3, Insightful)

Grant The Great (562818) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918121)

Aren't you a precious little snowflake? I assume your parents are big donors to the school.

Actually, I was a broke as shit college student paying my own tuition by working 60 hours a week on top of being a full time student so I wouldn't fall into unmanageable debt. I live by my principles and my convictions, when those are violated I act to correct them. Taking 10 minutes out of my day to right a wrong certainly isn't going to kill me, though it may inconvenience me.

The profs should given you two options - put up and shut up, or an F. I suspect most teachers have better uses for their time than googling random phrases, especially when the college is already paying for an automated method.

Professors get paid by my check every semester. They are there because students like me say they can be. I suspect that they felt it is worth letting one student opt out than it would be to fight it. Sure, they may already be paying for he automated response, but this article mentioned a lawsuit which is nearly ironclad in that students are in fact having their rights violated. Do you think that colleges have a standing order to willfully disregard student's wishes in regards to an already murky legal area? It wouldn't make sense; they'd accept my wishes to opt out, spend the extra time, and go on with their lives.

Re:Talk to your professor, opt out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28918667)

Not all professors are so accommodating. I used TurnItIn one time, if we didn't use that, we failed the class. No exceptions. Providence College FTW!

Re:Talk to your professor, opt out (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918741)

That's because there isn't really any point to turnitin other than sloth. I remember talking to some of the faculty when I was in college about that, and the reality is that while some people are subtle about it, that takes a lot of work to plagiarize in a way that's difficult to detect. Most of the time it's more or less self evident and googling a couple of those sentences will reveal the cheating.

Re:Talk to your professor, opt out (1)

Albanach (527650) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918745)

they had no issue with me opting out

Perhaps you should send a couple of essays to the attorney to find out if you really did manage to opt out. Perhaps one or more of your professors just nodded and uploaded the text anyway?

But is this REALLY copyright infringement? (5, Interesting)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 4 years ago | (#28917739)

In a way it's too bad that this didn't go to trial. Back when I was working in the Academic sector there was occasionally firestorms between students and faculty about this subject.

The major university I worked for (which will remain unnamed obviously) had it in the student contract (or code or bylaws or whatever) that the copyright of anything turned in by a student was owned by the university. I am guessing many universities do the same thing.

So it would have been interesting to see if that sort of fine print clause in a student agreement with a state institution would of held up. If it does I would think that the student didn't really have a case.

Re:But is this REALLY copyright infringement? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28917817)

The major university I worked for
would of

You worked for a university, but apparently you've never taken a 7th-grade English class.

Re:But is this REALLY copyright infringement? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28917915)

How are they going to claim that a work by the student is copyrighted by the university? If they were paying me a salary then I could see it, but they're not. I'm paying for the education, so it's mine.

Re:But is this REALLY copyright infringement? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28917987)

Not to mention that such a contract is illegal in many jurisdictions.

Re:But is this REALLY copyright infringement? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918679)

How are they going to claim that a work by the student is copyrighted by the university? If they were paying me a salary then I could see it, but they're not.

Your college credit is the salary. The consideration for this salary is 1. tuition and fees, plus 2. assignment of copyright in covered works.

Re:But is this REALLY copyright infringement? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918789)

Colleges may believe that, but I don't think that would stand up in court. You're paying them tuition and fees in order to get credits and hopefully a degree. The papers belong to the student as the student is the only one with the legal right to redistribute the papers. Now, there may be some whining about it being scholastic dishonesty to do so, but it's the right of the owner of the copyrighted information to redistribute it.

I don't think that the colleges are buying the work as part of a trade for the degree is something which college students are ever informed about or required to agree to. I certainly don't recall anybody asking me about that nor do I remember signing anything that gave them the rights to my work. There are exceptions in grad school for that sort of thing, but in those cases it's typically pretty clear, research done in grad school is typically owned by whomever it was that paid for it to be conducted.

You paid, but you didn't pay enough (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918835)

You're paying them tuition and fees in order to get credits and hopefully a degree.

Simply repeating that this (without the copyright assignment) is sufficient consideration is like repeating that "stealing"[1] cable television is OK because the shows on basic cable have advertisements.

The papers belong to the student as the student is the only one with the legal right to redistribute the papers.

And also the only one with the legal right to assign this copyright to another party.

[1] In before "it's not stealing." Theft of services [wikipedia.org] is the legal term.

Re:But is this REALLY copyright infringement? (1)

blueskies (525815) | more than 4 years ago | (#28919461)

Kinda like how no college has EVER felt entitled to any of the patents its grad students were granted based on research while there? Colleges never get any share of inventions by their students....

I got ripped off then (1)

Gates82 (706573) | more than 4 years ago | (#28919415)

Your college credit is the salary.

If course credit and a piece of paper is their payment to me then I got ripped off. I hate the higher education system, but have learned to deal with its shortcomings and maneuver through the system to get my piece of paper so that I could finally have my work experience count towards a PE license. I was very annoyed while streaming my graduation ceremony* that the president of the university bestowed my degree upon me with recommendation from the faculty. BS I earned that degree, fulfilled all requirements for such and in then end it was because they felt I was worthy not because I actually did anything.
*I only watched graduation because the president was speaking and wanted to hear what he would say to students who are thousands of dollars in debt as a result of school and graduating in a time of almost no jobs. Worst commencement speech I've ever heard (not that I've been to many graduations).

--
So who is hotter? Ali of Ali's Sister?

Re:But is this REALLY copyright infringement? (4, Insightful)

Bureaucromancer (1303477) | more than 4 years ago | (#28917923)

At my school there's nothing about copyright being handed over (in fact, as to TurnItIn, faculty are enoucraged to use it, but have to make it optional; usually means doing an annoted bibliography if you refuse) but there is a clause that they will consider any submission of previously marked work as plagarism. E.G. if a single paper is valid as course work in more than one course, and you hand it in twice they will consider it plagarized (I think there may be something to the effect that written permission can void this actually, never seen it given though). Not exactly the same thing, and I can see the university having an interest in this not happening, but I find the very idea one could "plagarize" oneself laughable, and the policy is honestly just as insulting as TurnItIn requirements. If a prof really needs new work just put it in the bloody course requirements.

Re:But is this REALLY copyright infringement? (1)

Chees0rz (1194661) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918643)

At my school there's nothing about copyright being handed over (in fact, as to TurnItIn, faculty are enoucraged to use it, but have to make it optional; usually means doing an annoted bibliography if you refuse)

TurnItIn should not be a replacement for an annotated bibliography. If you're not required to cite everything, then you're probably not getting a good education (Chees0rz, 2009). This is an important skill... As a side note- It always angered me in HS when the teacher would leave comments on my paper like "your words?" Yes they're my words- or I would have cited/quoted it.

if a single paper is valid as course work in more than one course, and you hand it in twice they will consider it plagarized...If a prof really needs new work just put it in the bloody course requirements.

It does not take much to seek this permission. Also, a verbatim copy of the original paper would be very difficult to effectively use for two different classes... so only an idiot (read: most college students) wouldn't make some edits (ie. Use the same research, prove different thesis). Many universities have this rule, but given Professors are People- I doubt many would object to two SIMILAR papers with two SIMILAR class appropriate theses (plural of thesis??!).

Re:But is this REALLY copyright infringement? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918815)

Technically speaking the professors aren't doing their jobs if they're duplicating work in different courses. If you take two different classes the course material is supposed to be different. It's really the duty of the professors involved not to waste students time in that manner. I'm sure it happens every once in a while with generic what did you do over the summer assignments, but for the most part they shouldn't be assigning duplicate homework like that.

Re:But is this REALLY copyright infringement? (1)

elthicko (1399175) | more than 4 years ago | (#28919053)

While I agree that courses can sometimes be frustratingly similar, there are legitimate times where the situation of one paper being valid for another course will come up. For example, in earlier years in University, one will typically take courses on general topics (e.g. 16th Century Literature). In that class you may decide to write a paper on Shakespeare. Then a year or two later you may find yourself in a course focusing just on Shakespeare. Depending on how you wrote your first paper, you may be able to hand in the same paper again at some point during this course.

Re:But is this REALLY copyright infringement? (1)

bentcd (690786) | more than 4 years ago | (#28919111)

Technically speaking the professors aren't doing their jobs if they're duplicating work in different courses.

Let's say in one course you're required to write an essay on the economics of crime and in another you are asked to write about US society during the Great Depression. These are rather different topics for different courses so it's difficult to say that they are duplicated. Within those broad topics you get to pick a more specific subject as you like. So you write about gangsters, smuggling, gambling and the illegal entertainment industry in the Chicago of the early '30s. You turn in the same paper for both courses. Profit! (If you're enterprising you might write two slightly different versions, each geared towards a specific course for those extra credits, but hey - there's a party tonight and who cares about top grades anyway.)

Re:But is this REALLY copyright infringement? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28919423)

Sounds like someone did a lot more work than they had to.

A lot of times I'd have two pretty much unrelated classes with sufficiently open prompts to write one overlapping paper.

For example, if you took one class on engineering ethics and another class was on environmental studies, you could very likely write a single paper about the pros and cons of material usage decisions in some common object. Your thesis just needs to be something along the lines of

"The use of should be deterred as it is bad for the environment and, thus, bad for people"

The reality is that the more open a prompt is, the more likely you can choose your topic wisely.

Re:But is this REALLY copyright infringement? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28919939)

Its not that simple.

In many PhD programs, students start a concept in one class, then expand upon it using a different technique, method of analysis, etc. in future classes. The net result for papers in each of these classes will show up on turnitin as plagiarized as large sections of text may not have changed if they aren't relevant to the different approach being tried. (Example: A basic introduction to the topic doesn't change much whether it is being analyzed with dynamic or formal modeling, but the underlying work for the modeling section is radically different)

Re:But is this REALLY copyright infringement? (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#28917971)

Students have a reasonable expectation of retaining the intellectual and moral rights to their own personal work, unless they have sold it, or worked for the university. Trying to covertly force students to sign exclusive rights over to all their work in advance would be a gross ethics violation.

It's maybe not even enforceable if the student wasn't offered fair compensation for the rights being transferred.

You will assign all copyrights for any work you ever make and utilize for a class assignment, without renumeration whatsoever, sounds like a good example of an unconscionable contract...

If it's in the bylaws, student code, or other document not available at contract signing (or if the contract doesn't actually get signed), then it may also be unenforceable on that basis.

Re:But is this REALLY copyright infringement? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918703)

You will assign all copyrights for any work you ever make and utilize for a class assignment, without renumeration whatsoever, sounds like a good example of an unconscionable contract...

Remuneration shall include credit for the course.

Re:But is this REALLY copyright infringement? (1)

Gribflex (177733) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918093)

Agreed -- my University did the exact same thing.
As for having to agree to the terms of handing over your copyright -- it was in the terms that you agreed to when you applied and registered.

You never signed a 'I waive my copyright' agreement, but you did sign an 'I agree to the terms, conditions and code of conduct as laid out in the calendar' agreement -- those terms included the copyright transfer deal.

The copyright transfer was not 100% though, you were still guaranteed attribution, but the University was allowed to republish as they wished.

Re:But is this REALLY copyright infringement? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918843)

I don't know where you live, but that sort of thing is probably not enforceable here. That would be a pretty blatant violation of state law governing how contracts may be interpreted. In order to win the case the college would have to demonstrate that they had made it sufficiently clear what they were asking for and that there was a meeting of the minds over it.

Courts around here tend to frown on easter egg hunts in contracts, particularly those that include references to other documents and where one couldn't reasonably be expected to understand the whole thing.

Doubful (1)

aepervius (535155) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918249)

The university probably got in the contract that the student give a perpetual non revokable right to the university to use/give/copy the work without a fee. But unelss they qualify for as "work for hire" they retain the original copyright. Mind you it is not the same for work given to doctorant : their result is then really a work for hire and owned by the university.

Re:But is this REALLY copyright infringement? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28918575)

All the Universities I worked for (in several countries) explicitly state that the copyright of works created by students are theirs (for example theses). I don't know which is your "major" university, but surely it is not mainstream, at least regarding student's copyright...

Totally Unfair! (5, Insightful)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 4 years ago | (#28917795)

Copyright law is supposed to protect corporations from potential customers. It is not meant to be used to protect authors from corporations. This is a perfectly honest corporation advancing its agenda by innocently infringing the copyright of authors. Corporations are supposed to get unequal protection under the law. How this court could see fit to apply the law equally in this case is beyond me.
 
/sarcasm

Re:Totally Unfair! (-1, Flamebait)

fermion (181285) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918747)

Exactly. When copyright law prohibit some kid from downloading unlicensed music it is unfair, but when copyright law allows them to bypass the normal rules of academic honestly, it is all the rage.

Now these kids may be the average kids who are not going to college, and if they are that is fine. They need to know how to sue to keep their low end jobs and maybe strike it rich when they 'have an accident' in wal mart.

But if they are going to college they should be more concerned with education rather than second guessing the process of which they have no experience. The sad thing is that so many people spend tens of thousands of dollars of a college education and really get nothing for it. One hears about all these college graduates that don't have a job, or can't find a well paying job, and I have to ask if these kids really got educated, or just did what they had to do to get a sheet of paper.

For many people, college has been and will continue to be a scam. The promise of higher salary and a middle class life depends on ones desire to put in the work. Otherwise it is wasted money. And no one is going to say don't go to college. There is too much money involved. Colleges need freshmen. The bring in student loans. College, unlike high schools, don't need to graduate anyone. They get no extra money for graduates, and lose face if the graduates suck. However, students still need to pay back loans. There is no way to get from under a loan. Not even bankruptcy. And banks make more moeny if you default. The government pays the loans, and they get to charge extra fees to get back the money you will have to eventually pay anyway. Even if you don't graduate. Even if you are working at 29 hours a week at wal mart.

This settlement is even more sad that the RIAA settlements. In the RIAA cases, there is likely no long term damage. In this case the lesson taught to kids is to attack those who are trying to help you, and that self serving immediate needs are paramount to long term goals. This may explain why arizona has almost a percentage point few per capitia college graduates than other states. People are more interested in looking good than being good.

Re:Totally Unfair! (1)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 4 years ago | (#28919595)

When copyright law prohibit some kid from downloading unlicensed music it is unfair, but when copyright law allows them to bypass the normal rules of academic honestly, it is all the rage.

When copyright law applies to sharing a few mp3s, it's worth millions of dollars in fine, but when company profits from other people's work, and bypasses the normal rules of academic honesty, it is all the rage.

This settlement is even more sad that the RIAA settlements. In the RIAA cases, there is likely no long term damage.

Except for someone being financially ruined for life, sure.

In this case the lesson taught to kids is to attack those who are trying to help you, and that self serving immediate needs are paramount to long term goals.

The lesson is: you own the copyright to your own work, and perhaps private companies shouldn't be using other people's work to profit from, without permission. Unless you are seriously suggesting it's one rule for the RIAA, and another for individuals?

I'm not sure how that is "attacking those who are trying to help you". If they're doing such a helpful service, then why not ask for permission?

Re:Totally Unfair! (1)

calmofthestorm (1344385) | more than 4 years ago | (#28919055)

Go back to Libertaria!

I had an issue similar to this. (3, Interesting)

spartin92 (1342937) | more than 4 years ago | (#28917827)

Last year my history teacher gave me a had time because I felt it was immoral and illegal for her to post my report without my permission. After days of waiting and a parent teacher conference (high school still :/) she just dropped the issue but didn't inform the rest of her classes that they didn't have to submit it. I licensed it under a Creative Commons Non-commercial use license. She probably just submitted it. :/

Re:I had an issue similar to this. (1)

Qubit (100461) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918179)

Email the lawyer -- they could probably get a court order to do discovery on Turn-it-in's database. If the paper isn't in the database, then no biggie. If the paper is in the database as you surmise, Turn-it-in probably isn't going to get smacked as hard as your teacher, but it's one more chance for a plaintiff to get a judgment against the company.

Re:I had an issue similar to this. (2, Interesting)

Albanach (527650) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918783)

I licensed it under a Creative Commons Non-commercial use license.

The revenge of the geeks. Students now have to shrink wrap their essays with an EULA saying that by opening you have agreed to the terms of the Creative Commons Non-Commercial Use license.

I do hope you included the attribution required clause!

Hilarious (0, Troll)

wasmoke (1055116) | more than 4 years ago | (#28917969)

FTFA:
"The lawsuit filed against Turnitin's parent company, iParadigms LLC, seeks $150,000 for each of six papers written by the students....'This case is not about money, and we don't expect to get that.'"
Not about the money? ORLY? Do you honestly think these high school kids give two s**ts about their little papers?

Re:Hilarious (1)

jopsen (885607) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918055)

FTFA: Not about the money?

They probably just wanna make them pay :)

Re:Hilarious (1)

Immostlyharmless (1311531) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918227)

Considering a custom written paper usually goes for a couple of hundred bucks if you contact a "paper writing service", even at 150,000 per infringement, they are still no where NEAR the outrageous multiple that the *IAAs want.

$150,000 per paper (1)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 4 years ago | (#28919525)

Well it's the going rate asked for by the RIAA. I wondered why they settled - if a few mp3s can result in a fine of millions of dollars, why not the same for some papers?

(Disclaimer: No, I don't think that sharing mp3s, or papers, should result in a fine of millions, the issue here is about consistency in law. Also, I think it's reasonable to have more sympathy with copying done for free, versus someone trying to make a profit from someone else's work as is the case with TurnItIn - if the RIAA was only suing people who were selling pirated CDs etc, I doubt anyone would care.)

Did they copy or distribute? (2, Interesting)

fluffy99 (870997) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918201)

It seems like they ought to be suing the teacher for distributing and/or reproducing the paper, not the company. As I understand it, the company merely received the copies and stored them. Or does the company allow other teachers to download potentially similar papers if there is a match flagged? Its the same argument about downloading music not being the issue, but rather allowing others to download it from you.

Re:Did they copy or distribute? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28918827)

Laws apply to the acceptor as well as the provider. Here are two common examples. It is a crime to "receive stolen goods". A "john" can be prosecutes for accepting services from a prostitute.

So, yes TurnItIn can be liable for accepting copyrighted materials from someone not authorized to sell them.

Re:Did they copy or distribute? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28919007)

The company adds the works to their databases of materials and in the future use it to check against newly submitted papers. They are profiting off the work of the students but getting a bad rap over it. Some of the Professors at my Uni that were all for it are completely opposed to it now. It is a waste of their time because they get false positives on stupid stuff like two word combinations like 'Civil War' or 'Revolutionary War'. The see the money being wasted on this software/service and realize the money can be utilized on something else that actually matters.

Re:Did they copy or distribute? (1)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 4 years ago | (#28919481)

> It seems like they ought to be suing the teacher for distributing and/or reproducing the paper, not the company.

The company is the one profiting.

Use judo (4, Interesting)

Qubit (100461) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918225)

Instead of fighting a big company yourself, just direct the weight of a big company to do itself in.

1. Write a paper. A really, really good paper. A research paper.
2. Get it accepted by a big journal. A really, really big journal like Nature.
3. Now somehow get this sucker added to Turn-it-in's database. Maybe you wrote the paper as a thesis and the prof needs to check it. Whatever.
4. Let the journal know that Turn-it-in has your paper. The paper to which they hold exclusive rights.
5. Pop some popcorn and sit back and let Nature do a little "Hulk Smash!".
6. The End.

(of course there would be several key problems in carrying out such a plan, but it would be delightfully amusing if you could pull it off)

Re:Use judo (0)

belmolis (702863) | more than 4 years ago | (#28918653)

This won't work, for two reasons. First, the journal won't give a hoot that Turnitin has a copy of the paper because the only use to which Turnitin puts the paper, internal comparison with submitted student papers, does not interfere with any interest of the journal's. Second, if the journal has any sense it will consult its attorney, who will advise it that it has no case because Turnitin's holding of a copy of the paper was: (a) licensed by its author when he or she submitted it; and (b) probably constitutes fair use. The journal's attorney will also advise it that even if it could win the case for infringement, it would be unable to establish any damages, and that the statutory damages available would not be worth the trouble.

Re:Use judo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28919101)

That's called Self-plagiarism. It depends on what field your in but ACM definitely has rules against it in their publications terms.

Bad summary (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 4 years ago | (#28919743)

Now the search goes out for any student who has a paper which is being held by TurnItIn that they did not upload themselves.

Er, no. It was pure supposition on the part of the blog author that the lawyers might be interested in hearing from more students.

On a side note, the students lost. Twice. They were also facing accusations of unauthorized access to the TurnItIn site, and opted to settle rather than face the prospect of actually having to pay for poking the hornets' nest (the district court had ruled against the company, but the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded that decision). Meanwhile, the TurnItIn people had already gotten a favorable judgment on the copyright issue, which serves to dissuade other people from trying to push the issue - no reason to risk that at the Supreme Court if you don't have to.

If I were the lawyers on this case, I wouldn't want to touch it again with a ten-meter cattleprod.

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