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Students Sue Anti-Plagiarism Service

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the students,-regrettably,-rarely-have-a-lot-of-rights dept.

Privacy 713

jazzbazzfazz writes "It seems that some students in Virginia are not happy with the anti-plagiarism service Turnitin. The company checks prose submitted by its customers for signs that it has been copied in whole or part by comparing it to a large database of works that it maintains. Trouble is, it also adds the submitted prose to its files and stores it for use by the company in future scans, which the students feel is illegal use of their copyrighted materials. I think they've got an excellent case, especially since they seem to have prepared for this eventuality: they're A-students, never been accused of plagiarism, and they formally copyrighted their papers prior to their submission to Turnitin."

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First Post (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18534579)

First post! Oh shit, I plagiarized this.

Re:First Post (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18534617)

First post! Oh shit, I plagiarized this.

(c) Anonymous Coward 2007. All rights reserved.

Re:First Post (5, Funny)

'nother poster (700681) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534735)

No, you didn't! It's obviously fair use.

And that is what the company will claim, or the school will claim copyright since the schoolwork was OBVIOUSLY a work for hire.
   

Re:First Post (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18534821)

the schoolwork was OBVIOUSLY a work for hire.

What college pays you to go there?

Re:First Post (0, Offtopic)

'nother poster (700681) | more than 7 years ago | (#18535061)

Next time I will include the joke and sarcasm tags just for you. At least you were too embarrassed to post as yourself since you OBVIOUSLY lost your sense of humor. I'd look under the bed and behind the sofa if I was you. That's where I usually find mine after I've lost it.

Probably not fair use. (5, Insightful)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#18535095)

I don't think the fair use defense is going to hold water. The situations in which you can claim fair use are pretty slim; a for-profit service, who is obviously deriving some economic benefit by using somebody else's copyrighted paper (by adding it to their database) is probably not going to qualify. I'm not sure what harm the students can claim, but if they have any decent lawyers at all, they'll find some way of doing it.

I actually wouldn't mind if it was covered under Fair Use, because I think that's something we could really do with broadening, but the law as written today wouldn't cover it.

Now, what I think will happen, is that Turnitin will advise its clients (schools, universities, etc.) that in order to use the service, they must obtain a release from students that includes permission to upload the files. This way, they'll just offload the responsibility for copyright infringement off on the schools, who will just force students to release their work, or refuse to give them a grade.

I don't think it'll be very long before, when you apply to a college or university, you also sign away all rights to everything you think, say, or do while you're there, in perpetuity, in any medium whatsoever. They'll just make it part of the admissions contract, and that will be it -- at least for private schools and colleges. I'm not sure what legal grounds you would get into with public schools, and whether they could force students to do that or not.

But I think the students in the Turnitin case, have just as much if not more grounds than the plaintiffs in the similar cases of book publishers vs. Google. (Actually, I think Google has a much better Fair Use defense than Turnitin does.)

Re:First Post (1)

packeteer (566398) | more than 7 years ago | (#18535081)

"All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective owners. Comments are owned by the Poster. The Rest © 1997-2007 OSTG."

Re:First Post (1)

LordEd (840443) | more than 7 years ago | (#18535137)

Actually, i think you have to cite it, not copyright it.

Coward, Anonymous (2007): First Post. Slashdot.org. Retrieved March 29, 2006 from "http://yro.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=228657&ci d=18534579"

Re:First Post (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534969)

Are you sure you didn't independently come up with the idea of first post?

Sue the pants off them!!!! (1)

D+iz+a+n+k+Meister (609493) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534585)

Then sell them pants!!!

Re:Sue the pants off them!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18534925)

I think they've got an excellent case

All the school has to do is put a "all your content is belong to us"-smallprint onte admission-applications, which it probably already has, and their "case" is done.

I predict (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534629)

I predict that instructors will, in the end, still be able to withhold grades if students want to belly ache. It kind of sucks that trust gets tossed out the window so quickly though.

Re:I predict (3, Interesting)

rainman_bc (735332) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534753)

. It kind of sucks that trust gets tossed out the window so quickly though.

I know people who've made most of their way through their undergrad plagiarizing papers. Not only does that mean my work is all for not, it also sets the bar higher when a prof has read 20 or 30 plagiarized papers. Not that my work's been terrible, but some of those papers are really great, and it makes it harder for me to get a good grade.

Re:I predict (2, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534911)

Not that my work's been terrible, but some of those papers are really great, and it makes it harder for me to get a good grade.

Grade inflation in American universities is insane. Any cause to grade more strictly would only help even it out.

Re:I predict (2, Interesting)

geek (5680) | more than 7 years ago | (#18535025)

If you knew they were cheating why didn't you turn them in? Most school have an honor code and if it bothered you so much you should have talked to the professors. Personally I don't know anyone that cheats on papers, I'm an English major and that's pretty much all we do in my classes. If people were cheating I'd have encountered it at least once by now, and I haven't.

Re:I predict (4, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#18535087)

I'm an English major and that's pretty much all we do in my classes. If people were cheating I'd have encountered it at least once by now, and I haven't.

Anybody who's an English major presumably wants to be one because they enjoy writing (due to the "do you want fries with that?" job prospects). Therefore, they wouldn't want to cheat anyway. In contrast, the types of majors that people who care about money rather than the subject go into, like management, probably have a much higher incidence of cheating.

Re:I predict (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18535157)

Hopefully in your "really great" papers you used the correct phrase, "all for naught." Keep up the good work.

Re:I predict (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18534967)

More like the students will be required to sign an agreement granting the instructor a non-exclusive license to the instructor and turnitin.com to use the works to catch plagiarism. No signature = no credit.

It's ridiculous that this is necessary. Course syllabi are already like five pages long to account for whatever legalistic maneuvers a previous student used to avoid a course requirement.

And as an editorial comment (I am a university instructor) -- SCREW these students. It is already too easy to plagiarize and too difficult to make charges stick, to the extent that many instructors decline to punishing suspected plagiarism -- it's a huge waste of their valuable time. These students are cheapening the value of their own degrees by making plagiarism even more rampant than it already is.

Uh... no. (0)

mark-t (151149) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534635)

In general, any content that you submit as part of a course becomes the intellectual property of the school, unless they explicitly say otherwise.

So I expect these students will be S.O.L.

Re:Uh... no. (3, Informative)

fotbr (855184) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534701)

Not like that at any school I've been to.

Now, around here it IS fairly common for clauses specifying ownership of IP to be present for faculty and research staff, but not for students.

Re:Uh... no. (2, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534913)

This is a dupe, and it was discussed in some length when it first appeared. For what it's worth, my university (in the UK) had a clause stating that the copyright on all submitted coursework was owned by the university. Your might have too; quite a few of my contemporaries didn't notice its existence.

Re:Uh... no. (3, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#18535113)

Of course, all that's irrelevant because this case concerns public high schools, not universities.

Re:Uh... no. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18534745)

In general, any content that you submit as part of a course becomes the intellectual property of the school, unless they explicitly say otherwise.

Actually, in general, in my limited university experience (BSc, MSc, PhD) at 3 different schools that is not the case.

Students retain copyright ownership. Patents are usually diffent - the school wants a percentage of the profits.

Re:Uh... no. (1)

jhfry (829244) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534749)

I don't believe that is entirely true. I don't think it necessarily becomes the schools property, especially if the authors specify alternate copyrights. In addition, I don't believe that the school can use your work for absolutely any purpose they wish, which tells me that they are granted limited rights (educational use?) however they are not made THE copyright holder.

Of course I could be wrong.

Re:Uh... no. (4, Insightful)

stinerman (812158) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534757)

Can you show me a cite that backs up your position or did you just pull that out of your ass? That might be the case in Canada (I noticed the .ca email address), but this is a case in the states.

I signed no contract in primary or secondary school that said my work is the property of the school, and copyright law has no provision that makes such a theory true. The closest thing that comes to mind is works for hire. And I don't think any copyright attorney would argue such an asinine position.

Re:Uh... no. (2, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#18535191)

I signed no contract in primary or secondary school that said my work is the property of the school, and copyright law has no provision that makes such a theory true.

You cannot even be party to a contract until you achieve majority.

Re:Uh... no. (1)

Eivind (15695) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534825)

Uhm, no. In general any creative work is copyrigthed by the person who created it. Unless some agreement is in effect to change this.

So, the school would own the coprigths only if they had prior agreements with all students to this effect. Personally I'd consider that completely batshit insane, seeing as schools don't generally pay students, but I realize parts of the US school-system is somewhat different.

Re:Uh... no. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18534999)

Unless some agreement is in effect to change this.

Buried in the fine print of all that paperwork you sign for college is usually a disclaimer to that effect, though most profs will secure permission in advance. I believe it does allow for exemptions if the student calls it out (and since they explicitly claim copyright, they might qulaify). But since the news report said they were high school students, I doubt they have signed such an agreement (colleges are much more aware of these issues and usually grab all the righst they can)

Not for most undergrads in the USA (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534839)

Grad students are a different story, particularly for students on research fellowships.

The rules are usually spelled out in the University Catalog or other published policies.

I expect either the students or the university will have an "instant win" by pointing to the policies and the Catalog.

Schools don't get unlimited rights to your work (1)

csoto (220540) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534865)

Submitting work to your instructor typically conveys certain non-exclusive perpetual rights to the materials upon the school. It does not, however, strip your rights to the materials. Unless you signed an agreement, it most certainly does NOT allow the school to transfer those rights to a third party. This is a good fight and I hope it sets precedent.

Re:Uh... no. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18534875)

I believe it is similar to "work for hire", except your are granted credit for the class rather than pay. The school owns the copyright if you submit something to fulfill the requirements of the course.

Re:Uh... no. (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534933)

more like you pay to work and they give a work review.

Re:Uh... no. (1)

pimpin apollo (664314) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534961)

No. This is completely untrue in the U.S. I have no clue what Canada's law is.

In the U.S., however, transfers of a copyright (which means assignments or exclusive licenses) must be made in writing and generally have to be explicit about it. Additionally, students are not employees and so they're not covered by work for hire.

There is a good possibility though that students are, however, giving an implied license to the school. This means that the school can use their work non-exclusively in ways that the implied license would permit. This is a far cry from "any content that you submit as part of a course becomes the intellectual property of the school, unless they explicitly say otherwise."

Submissions need to be usable by the school (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534991)

Even if you can retain copyright (ie not give it to the school), you need to be able to allow the school fair access and use of that material so that the school can do their job. Part of that job is to check against plagiarism. If the conditions you place on the assignment restrict this use, then the school can just say that you failed to submit an acceptable assignment.

If you don't like this, then I suggest you encrypt your next assignment so that the school cannot read it. That will show them!

That's fine, but... (1)

Hamster Lover (558288) | more than 7 years ago | (#18535193)

That's fine, but the school is the one responsible for making a determination of plagiarism, not a third party that then retains the material in contravention of copyright.

Re:Uh... no. (1)

Idaho (12907) | more than 7 years ago | (#18535131)

In general, any content that you submit as part of a course becomes the intellectual property of the school, unless they explicitly say otherwise.


Says who? I'm genuinely curious, because people at your school or university telling you this, doesn't necessarily make it so.

This may depend on country, I don't know...can you point out any laws or precedents where this issue came up?

Because I don't know of any. (admittedly this doesn't say much at all as IANAL).

In principle you have copyright on everything you write, unless you do it as part of a (paid) job because in such cases you usually signed a contract that states any work you do [in company-paid time] becomes property of your employer. Also, you can explicitly transfer the copyright to someone else - this is what you usually (have to) do to get your work published in a journal, book or (scientific) proceedings. Because if you don't, they are not allowed to print/distribute it. I don't remember ever signing such a "contract" with schools or universities I attended in the past though...

Why woudn't they want their work cataloged (5, Insightful)

jhfry (829244) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534643)

I realize that it does indeed violate their copyright, but as a student, wouldn't you want your paper in their catalog so that some lazy student can't make it through school by plagiarizing YOUR work?

I don't know about these students, but when I was in school nothing bothered me more than students asking to see my answers, cheat off my tests, or read my essays for 'inspiration'.

But then again, it is a violation all the same. I say if it bothers them, go for it the law is on their side.

Re:Why woudn't they want their work cataloged (4, Funny)

raehl (609729) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534801)

I realize that it does indeed violate their copyright, but as a student, wouldn't you want your paper in their catalog so that some lazy student can't make it through school by plagiarizing YOUR work?

I guess that would depend mainly on how much you were able to sell your paper for.

Re:Why woudn't they want their work cataloged (1)

bigtangringo (800328) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534835)

Personally, I wouldn't mind if someone else "plagiarized" my work in High School. I think the "busy work" assigned to students is a load of bunk, along with the system in general.

*shrug*

Re:Why woudn't they want their work cataloged (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534995)

I completely agree with this....unless it was an essay or a test, I never had a problem with someone copying from me.

Re:Why woudn't they want their work cataloged (1)

jhfry (829244) | more than 7 years ago | (#18535029)

I would have agreed in part then... now that I am in the working world however I feel differently. That guy who skated through school on other's coat tails is now my competition. And though I am confident I am the better candidate for any position I am competing against them for, there is always the potential that I don't get the job. Or worse, they are ruining the status, reputation, and marketability for those in my position.

As an example, I have actually seen smallish companies fire their IT staff and hire consultants instead because they had a bad experience with one or two guys... had those guys not been TOTAL screw-ups I might have had a job there.

Programmers are being outsourced in droves, not just because of lower wages, but because of better results per dollar. How much of that movement was caused by lazy programmers who didn't take the time to really learn their trade? I am sure I'm not the only person who would prefer to work with a local development house, or even hire developers internally, if I could get good quality people.

So justifying cheating in school because they don't like the "busy work" is creating a group of people who will only hurt those they cheated off of.

Re:Why woudn't they want their work cataloged (2, Insightful)

thebes (663586) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534869)

They can't plagiarize your work if you don't give it to them. If someone asks for your solution/paper/answers, just tell them to screw off and figure it out for themselves.

Re:Why woudn't they want their work cataloged (5, Insightful)

stinerman (812158) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534889)

You're asking the wrong question. The question is not "why wouldn't you want to deter cheaters from using your work". The question is "why would you want to let other people make money off of deterring cheaters by using your work - without you seeing a penny of the profit".

In essence, Turnitin is making a good deal of money by using other people's work. If those people want a cut of the proceeds, I don't see a problem with that.

Re:Why woudn't they want their work cataloged (1)

jfengel (409917) | more than 7 years ago | (#18535179)

I wonder how much a "cut of the profit" is. The thing contains perhaps millions of papers, each worth an equal amount. They may be making a "good deal" of money, but amortized out over the total set of papers, each individual contribution is probably worth less than a penny per year.

Re:Why woudn't they want their work cataloged (0, Redundant)

Rakshasa Taisab (244699) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534903)

Well then, why don't you check the box that says: ( ) Please include me in your database.

And leave other people's papers alone, your feeling don't matter.

Though, on a related note... How does this service compare to Google's book searching thing? Didn't google argue that since they just archive the books for indexing purposes, it was ok. Though might be slightly different as those books were published and part of a library.

Re:Why woudn't they want their work cataloged (1)

jhfry (829244) | more than 7 years ago | (#18535101)

Though, on a related note... How does this service compare to Google's book searching thing? Didn't google argue that since they just archive the books for indexing purposes, it was ok. Though might be slightly different as those books were published and part of a library.
Good question, and I suspect it has to do with profit. Though Google is making their money on this somehow.

Terms of Service (5, Interesting)

Lockejaw (955650) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534653)

Do the terms of service say anything about assigning the copyright to Turnitin? Or perhaps expressly allowing this use? If so, is that enforceable given that the school (probably) required students to use Turnitin?
If not, does this constitute fair use? I would argue that it doesn't, since Turnitin is doing it for commercial gain.

Re:Terms of Service (5, Insightful)

t0rkm3 (666910) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534767)

And the greater question is... Is it an undo burden by the school on the student? Can the school legally force the student to consign their work to the intellectual property of a non-public third party?

Re:Terms of Service (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18534901)

So does this mean you are against Google books?

I'd actually be curious to see if Google weighs in on this one. Google has claimed that they have a legal right to index any book and let people search those books under copyright (even though Google is making a complete copy of each book that they store on their server without owning the original work) . Turnitin is basically the same idea, but you are submitting papers and looking for collisions.

Re:Terms of Service (4, Interesting)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 7 years ago | (#18535169)

The Terms of Service are irrelevant.

Normal use of this service is by the TEACHER, not the writer. The teacher does NOT have the legal authority to assign the copyright to Turnitin.

I am sure that the kids took the precaution of having Student A write the paper and Student B submit it, so that there particular law test case will work.

that system is pretty flawed. (5, Informative)

jessecurry (820286) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534663)

Last year a big group of people submitted rough drafts to our instructor, they were all run through the system. Then, we submitted our final papers, they were run through the system too, but the second time the class had 30 students that were shown to plagiarize. It really needs work, I understand what they are doing, but the implementation steps on a lot of toes.

Re:that system is pretty flawed. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18535059)

So wait...

All the rough drafts were ran through the system.
Then later, the final drafts were ran through the system and came up with collisions.

Isn't that working as intended? Or was it a class of 500 and only 30 had hits? After all, it wouldn't be a shock that Alice wrote a paper that looked a lot like Alice's rough draft, and Bob wrote a paper that looked a lot like Bob's rough draft and so on.

I must be missing something!

Clear case of Fair Use (4, Interesting)

lakeland (218447) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534669)

This is identical to Google Book search. You may copy text for all sorts of protected purposes.
I hope it is thrown out while leaving plenty of egg on the students' faces.

Re:Clear case of Fair Use (1)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534777)

so, since the students works are the primary resource for TurnItIn to remain viable, how much of a cut should the clean students get for their work? or should turnitin be making a profit off others materials with no recompense for those who supply them with the means to do so?

And why should the students have egg on their face for not wanting others to profit from their works with no compensation?

Just curious since the tone of your post seems to assume that the students are in the wrong in some way.

Re:Clear case of Fair Use (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 7 years ago | (#18535023)

Just curious since the tone of your post seems to assume that the students are in the wrong in some way.

He's not saying they're "in the wrong in some way", just that (and I think he's correct) there's not a copyright violation on Turnitin's part. If the company were distributing the body of text in some way, it'd be different, but their current model seems OK.

Re:Clear case of Fair Use (1)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 7 years ago | (#18535051)

should turnitin be making a profit off others materials with no recompense for those who supply them with the means to do so?


Ah, but the students are getting some recompense ... they benefit in that they no longer have to compete against cheaters. A level playing field is a nice thing to have.

Re:Clear case of Fair Use (1)

lakeland (218447) | more than 7 years ago | (#18535053)

s/Students/Publishers/gi, s/TurnItIn/Google Book Search/gi
--
so, since the publishers works are the primary resource for Google Book Search to remain viable, how much of a cut should the publishers get for their work? or should Google Book Search be making a profit off others materials with no recompense for those who supply them with the means to do so? And why should the publishers have egg on their face for not wanting others to profit from their works with no compensation?
--
See for example: http://www.lessig.org/blog/archives/003292.shtml [lessig.org]

Yes, the student's work provides that backbone of TurnItIn's service, but provided TurnItIn stays within Fair Use, the students are entitled to nothing. To pick another example, I recently generated a thesaurus using (copyright) text by quite a number of authors. I did not pay any of them anything even though my product is essentially useless without their work. Incidentially, I also implemented something almost identical to TurnItIn, but I only applied it to the student's work I was marking. I didn't go the extra step of generalising it and making it work for everyone.

As for egg, my point is the students are being just as greedy as the publishers. A certain amount of greed encourages innovation - if you didn't want more you wouldn't bother to work hard. But excessive greed stifles innovation (such as preventing Google Book Search or TurnItIn).

Say what?! (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534895)

A "clear case" of fair use? It's copying the entire work, and it's doing it for commercial purposes. That's the worst possible result on two of the four criteria, before we even start on the others.

And how is this at all the same as Google's book search?

Re:Say what?! (1)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 7 years ago | (#18535017)

Well, in your words, Google is "copying the entire work, and it's doing it for commercial purposes."

Re:Say what?! (4, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#18535031)

It's copying the entire work, and it's doing it for commercial purposes.... And how is this at all the same as Google's book search?

Google book search also copies the entire work, and does it for commercial (advertising) purposes.

I'm not sure why I had different initial opinions in the two cases (for Google but against Turnitin), but I have to admit the cases are pretty damn similar.

No, it isn't (1)

winkydink (650484) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534959)

You can use portions of copyrighted works for all sorts of purposes without permission.

Now if Turnitin is deriving their methods from the copyrighted works instead of just doing fancy diffs on the entire work itself, they might have a defensible position. This should be interesting to watch develop as more details unfold.

Re:Clear case of Fair Use (4, Insightful)

metlin (258108) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534989)

While I won't repeat what others have said, bear in mind that one of the essays had an explicit notice forbidding them from archiving it, but Turnitin went ahead and did it anyway.

And secondly, the company is making money using the content from the students.

How is any of that fair use?

Not to mention that these systems are used by people assuming that all students cheat, which is bad to begin with. So much for morale.

Re:Clear case of Fair Use (4, Insightful)

bigbigbison (104532) | more than 7 years ago | (#18535045)

First off, there have been a lot of legal rumblings about google's book search. Google has modified it so that they no longer have the whole book online unless the publisher allows it or it is out of print. If you want your book out of it, there is a way to do so http://books.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answ er=43756&topic=9011 [google.com] Turnitin has no such opt out process.
Secondly Google offers this as a free service. Although it has ads, there are also links to several book sellers which would allow the person who wrote the book and the publisher to get a sale from it. Turnitin is not a free service. They are directly profiting from the work of college students who do not and cannot see any monetary reward from their work being forcefully included in the turnitin database.
It doesn't sound the same at all to me.

Totally agree (4, Informative)

ocdude (932504) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534679)

This really pisses me off. I did all that work and it gets submitted, without prior consent sometimes, to a database for a company to make a profit off of while I get nothing in return? Of course, it all depends on the university as well. For example, I'm doing a year abroad. It shocked me that before coming to this university, we had to basically sign over copyright to the university for anything we created while students here. Essentially, every single project or paper I have turned in for a grade to this university now belongs to them. I raised the issue with the director of the program and she looked at me as if I was some sort of freak because I actually like retaining the rights to any content I create, giving it out as I see fit.

Where is your homework ? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18534705)

My homework is finished, it is not yet copyrighted and you haven't returned the nondisclosure form to my attorney. Deduct points and I'll sue ya.

Re:Where is your homework ? (4, Informative)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534785)

It was copyrighted the day you fixed it to a tangible medium.

Re:Where is your homework ? (2, Interesting)

Himring (646324) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534803)

My systematics professor told the story of a student who turned in a term paper one year, and as the professor began flipping pages, there on the page were his photo-copied marks that he made on the original paper the year before.

IOW, the guy had taken some other guy's paper from a previous year, photo-copied it, and turned it in as his own. I guess he had changed the title page or something, but didn't even take the time to _look_ at the rest of the pages to even see the markings.

Professor calls the guy in and says, "do you need to tell me anything about this paper?" And the kid is like, "I really enjoyed doing it." Professor is like, "anything else?" The kid catches on and says, "are you gonna give me an f on the paper?" The professor is like, "you're going to flunk the class and luck for you I'm not going to get you expelled from the school...."

geez, he couldn't even be bothered to retype it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18535115)

Shuda got an f for being that lazy a bastard...

Re:Where is your homework ? (2, Informative)

'nother poster (700681) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534907)

But, it IS copyrighted. It is copyrighed as you create it. The registration only raises the limits on damages.

Well.... this is interesting (1)

LordPhantom (763327) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534709)

Preface: I am not a lawyer, I can't even play one on TV. So.... I would have assumed that when they sign up to use TurnItIn they agree to some sort of legal terms.... perhaps that's not the case?

If they did, I would assume the appropriate lawsuit would be against the schools that are forcing them to attend (truancy laws) and submit copyrighted works.

That, in turn, would never work for (American, at least) University students, as from what I know (the few I've attended) they have students sign agreements about the works they produce while in class, etc.

New rules for incoming students (3, Insightful)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534717)

AnyUniversity, USA

New Student Application

The undersigned hereby agrees to allow AnyUniversity, henceforth known as "The Univeristy," its employees, officers, and agents, a non-exclusive, perpetual right to store or publish copies of all work submitted for course credit.

Formally copyrighted? (2, Insightful)

sdo1 (213835) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534727)

...and they formally copyrighted their papers prior to their submission to Turnitin.
What exactly does that mean? I was under the impression that the mere act of creating the work rendered it "copyrighted".

-S

Re:Formally copyrighted? (4, Informative)

georgewilliamherbert (211790) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534791)

It ususally means having registered it with the government. The usual terminology is "registered copyright" rather than "formally", but other coverage makes it clear what they did.

Re:Formally copyrighted? (5, Informative)

the_doctor_23 (945852) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534931)

...and they formally copyrighted their papers prior to their submission to Turnitin.
What exactly does that mean? I was under the impression that the mere act of creating the work rendered it "copyrighted".
From http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.html#cr [copyright.gov] :
If registration is made within 3 months after publication of the work or prior to an infringement of the work, statutory damages and attorney's fees will be available to the copyright owner in court actions. Otherwise, only an award of actual damages and profits is available to the copyright owner.

Re:Formally copyrighted? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18534977)

In the USA, it means sending a copy to the Library of Congress [copyright.gov]

Turnitin for research? (1)

sBox (512691) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534729)

I'm not sure of the law regarding the service, but wouldn't seem too far out if they began offering their repository as a student research tool. The product may not be professional quality, but it would sure give one a lot of ideas when writing yet-another-paper on Biblical symbolism in Moby Dick. Everything should be footnoted, so you could go back to the sources too.

Are tax dollars are paying for this service? (1)

ajenteks (943860) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534747)

If so, here's a better idea. Take the money spent and apply it to hiring more teachers to get smaller class sizes. This way, teachers can get a good idea of their students' voices and be able to tell if something seems plagiarized. Hey, this might even have other benefits for the kids too.

Re:Are tax dollars are paying for this service? (1)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 7 years ago | (#18535161)

More teachers don't do much when you don't have space for extra classrooms. My elementary school turned the auditorium into classrooms before I got there and did the same to the library while I was there. I'm sure they'd have done the same to the outside cement yard area if the historic status of the building didn't prevent most external modifications. A high school near where I lived had those mobile classrooms outside the building for a decade or so now.

Not to mention that given the quality (or rather lack there of) of teachers I've seen during my school years the less students interact closely with them the less school shootings we'll have. Quantity does not equal quality and shitty teachers are much worse than overcrowded classrooms imho.

One teacher for example never read homeworks, apparently it took her 9 months to realize one kid's homeworks consisted entirely of "You're a bitch" (and similar phrases). Another one had three petitions started to get her fired but none had any impact despite large numbers of signatures (thank you union). I still remember one time having to explain something in chemistry to the class because the teacher was too incompetent to do so, keep in mind that this was one of the rare moments that I wasn't sleep in that class. Hell, my middle school math teacher was so utterly bad (and the school so utterly unhelpful) that I learned calculus (and passed the AP exam) mostly so I'd never have to deal with her kind ever again.

I hate that fucking bot... (4, Interesting)

garcia (6573) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534781)

I didn't want that god damn bot spidering me anymore so I went to the URL they offer during the crawl: http://www.turnitin.com/robot/crawlerinfo.html [turnitin.com]

Right there it tells you how to turn the fucking thing off.

User-agent: TurnitinBot
Disallow: /

One of the McLean High plaintiffs wrote a paper titled "What Lies Beyond the Horizon." It was submitted to Turnitin with instructions that it not be archived, but it was, the lawsuit says.

So, instead of suing first, I assume that these students sent a certified letter demanding the content be removed from the database? The article doesn't specifically say, but I have a feeling that's not what happened.

Re:I hate that fucking bot... Big difference... (1)

Fallen Kell (165468) | more than 7 years ago | (#18535147)

There is a difference here. The papers in question were printed works, much like a book, in other words a single edition. The school was given a single edition for use in terms of grading the paper. However, it was not given the rights to further distribute the work, and most definitely not give the right for use by Turnitin, in fact that was explicitly stated on the works in question.

When dealing with the internet, if the creator of the work published it for distribution, it is giving an implicit right for it to be read by other parties, and potentially even copied for the party to archive and read later, unless otherwise stated. For bots, stating this is to configure the user-agent strings in the appropriate config files.

The difference here is in the medium. For all intents and purposes, publishing on the web itself is just like owning your own printing press and printing an edition of the paper for everyone who wants one. That is not how a physical work is treated. It is treated as its own single piece of property.

Going nowhere fast? (1, Informative)

Old Man Kensey (5209) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534815)

Here's the relevant section of the Turnitin usage terms:

"Your License to Us: Unless otherwise indicated in this Site, including our Privacy Policy or in connection with one of our services, any communications or material of any kind that you e-mail, post, or transmit through the Site (excluding personally identifiable information of students and any papers submitted to the Site), including, questions, comments, suggestions, and other data and information (your "Communications") will be treated as non-confidential and non-proprietary. You grant iParadigms a non-exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, world-wide, irrevocable license to reproduce, transmit, display, disclose, and otherwise use your Communications on the Site or elsewhere for our business purposes. We are free to use any ideas, concepts, techniques, know-how in your Communications for any purpose, including, but not limited to, the development and use of products and services based on the Communications. [bold & italic emphasis mine]

The bold part is what will kill the suit (assuming it predates the filing of the suit), but the italic part is pretty scary too: if your submission is something involving an invention, you just granted Turnitin an unlimited license to use your idea for any purpose.

Re:Going nowhere fast? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18534993)

Huh? The bold part is irrelevant to the lawsuit. The students are protesting the use of their papers not random communication with iParadigms. As such, the terms of service seem to clearly exclude student papers from the all-encompassing rights grab of the rest of the paragraph.

Re:Going nowhere fast? (1)

Shimmer (3036) | more than 7 years ago | (#18535149)

MOD PARENT UP for reading the TOS correctly.

Re:Going nowhere fast? (1)

Zonekeeper (458060) | more than 7 years ago | (#18535041)

I dunno. The italic part is what may NOT kill the suit. Declaring that if I see what you write for providing a service that shows whether or not your works is a copy of someone else or if someone else copies your work, that I can then also take what you wrote and do with it what I want including making money off of it, seems to be SCREAMING for a lawsuit. That, if not illegal, sure as hell ought to be civilly actionable.

Re:Going nowhere fast? (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 7 years ago | (#18535097)

You just say that you paper for the invention was part of a forced class that you took and you owned the rights to it before you turned it in.

Re:Going nowhere fast? (5, Insightful)

jaxom_01 (720138) | more than 7 years ago | (#18535129)

The problem is that the teachers/staff have no rights to give to Turnitin. The students hold all rights to their own works and the students were never asked to agree to those clauses. I think that it is a clear violation of copyright.

I don't know about this (1)

edbob (960004) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534817)

It seems to me that eventually every paper submitted to such a service would come up flagged as plagiarized. Since it keeps collecting papers, eventually two of them will match. How many different reports can a kid write on, for example, nuclear power? Isn't plagiarism supposed to be the direct copying of a work? How can such a system prove that the work was copied rather than just coincidently similar?

This will be interesting (1)

corran__horn (178058) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534827)

Going though their terms of use [turnitin.com] , it would seem they do not try to claim copyright (which is surprising, as many others try to landgrab user copyright). This really could land them in hot water, as they then don't even have a contract to rest on. Does anyone have their clickthrough for students? I am curious what the legal ramifications of being used in a public school are, as it would be a legally enforced (you have to go to school) theft of copyright. I am also curious what their storage was like, as if they didn't respect a request not to archive a paper they are in hotter water then if they never asked. It would be interesting to have tried sending DMCA notices, as this would force them into a even more sticky situation.

Business plan... (1)

alexhs (877055) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534829)

According to the lawsuit, each of the students obtained a copyright registration for papers they submitted to Turnitin. The lawsuit filed against Turnitin's parent company, iParadigms LLC, seeks $150,000 for each of six papers written by the students.

"My son's major objection is that he does not cheat, and this assumes he does. This case is not about money, and we don't expect to get that."
Yeah, right ! I always register what I write, of course !

If you don't like it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18534853)

Don't Turnitin!

 

Term Papers Want to Be Free (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534857)

...or so Slashdot has tried to convince me.

This is very clever (2, Interesting)

Qwerpafw (315600) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534871)

I hope they win. All too often copyright is being used as the tool of large corporations against the little man. It's time the individual fought back against the big companies.

Turnitin.com plays on the rampant fears of plagiarism to sell a service students really don't have any choice of using. The teacher submits the papers, and the students have no control over their copyrighted material. You essay, your intellectual property, disappears into the black hole of turnitin.com and never comes out.

Re:This is very clever (1)

pimpin apollo (664314) | more than 7 years ago | (#18535079)

I agree, this seems wrong, and it feels good for copyright to be used against these kinds of people, but let's be logical about this. We want a broad fair use right. If they weren't copying papers, but were copying books so that you could search them, would you feel the same way? Many of the same arguments we'd make about why this is ok for Google -- it doesn't decrease the value of the student's work, it doesn't cut into a secondary market for the student's work, it is in a sense different use of the student's work than for what the student could claim value from -- apply here.

Now, if it's a case between big company gets to do it but no one else does, then I understand your point, but if we're trying to establish a consistent position here, then we need to be rational about this and not give into our distaste for the litigants.

Let's get some legal framework down first (2, Interesting)

pimpin apollo (664314) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534877)

For the ensuing discussion, let's get some legal concepts down first. If the case ever gets to the merits, will come down to the issue of licenses and fair use.

Some points then:
* There is no "formally copyrighted" process. There is registration. Registration helps with damages, proof, and some other things, but it is not necessary. Fixing a creative work in a tangible form is about all that's needed for a copyright.

* The students, writing for a school, are not employees and they were not making works for hire. They are not employees. Even if they are independent contractors, there is nothing in writing.

* The students, going to a school, necessarily permit some uses of their copyrighted work. This is particularly clear if it was known that this sort of copying was going on in the first place.

* This case might involve fair use. I know what the company is doing feels a little slimy, but for those of us that care about free culture/constitution/whatever you want to call it, we ought to advocate for a version of fair use that is expansive enough to cover this activity. If Google should be able to copy books so that we can search them (as google should), then this company should be able to do something similar with term papers. Remember, these rules apply to everyone, not just the companies we feel good about.

Alright, now have at it.

Discussed before, but this is a new development (3, Interesting)

ptbarnett (159784) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534879)

Students Protest Turnitin.com [slashdot.org]

This time, it looks like someone purposely set up a test case at the same high school (in McLean, VA), by submitting a paper and specifying that it not be archived -- then found that it was.

Last time, I wondered if it was appropriate for a public high school to require students to contribute their papers to Turnitin.com's database. You might be able to make a compelling argument that private schools and public/private universities could do so as a condition of admission. But, how do you reconcile truancy laws and forced contributions to a privately owned-and-operated company?

Horrible system (4, Informative)

geek (5680) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534905)

As an English major (I type poorly so excuse typos) I can tell you first hand that Turnitin is horrid. Previous posts have talked about how submitting a draft and then your final shows your final as being plagiarized. But it's worse than that. It hits on common word usage, simple three word statements, hell even cliche statements that may be 2 words long, it marks them.

To make matters worse a large number of professors are starting to use this and treat it like the gospel. I know several students accused now of plagiarism, falsely, because of this system.

I am lucky this semester and have 2 professors who realize this and in a move to stop plagiarism have taken other actions, such as asking us to turn in all of our rough drafts and print/copy out our sources and attach it all to our final work, something you can still cheat on but are much less likely too.

Personally I don't know anyone who has ever cheated on a paper. I suppose with some of the fluff classes and electives some may have because those classes are a low priority, but by and large plagiarism is no where near as big a problem as these people make it out to be. High school maybe, but not in higher education.

Re:Horrible system (1)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 7 years ago | (#18535111)

No, this happens all the time.

(Remember, the plural of anecdote is NOT data.)

One guy at my alma mater was in his last term of Engineering, plagiarized a report, and got expelled.

I went to college (and then University) with different guy who wrote notes on his hands and read them during tests.

When I was in my 2nd year, I worked in groups to solve homework problems. There was too much to do to get it done individually. Technically, this was against the rules. I also used the old exams extensively. (Which is better than cheating, IMO. I'd rather have the old exams than the answer key.)

So cheating, as defined and strictly enforced, does happen.

But it's not like cheating has consequences in real life anyway. My project manager's been stealing my work for a year and getting credit for it.

The door swings both ways... (1, Insightful)

gillbates (106458) | more than 7 years ago | (#18534997)

So I wonder if these same students consider the "cataloging" and sharing of copyrighted music just as infringing?

If it isn't infringing to share music via P2P, then why would it be infringing for school staff to share papers? Especially when in the latter case, they are doing it with the explicit purpose of preventing copying of the students work? Presumably, a student who finds his hard work copied by another student would have a copyright infringement case against the other student, provided that it was indeed copied without permission. After all, high school students would never stoop so low as to allow others to copy their work.

I'm thinking that more than a few of them have downloaded and shared music under the justification of "Maybe I'll buy it later... if I like it." But for some reason, it's only considered copyright infringement when it is their work being copied.

After all, if it isn't your work being copied, it's sharing, right?

Idiots (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18535009)

In order to use Turnitin, you need to have an account. It's impossible to create an account without being in a Turnitin run class, but I would assume that as part of the account creation you agree to the terms of usage given at http://turnitin.com/static/usage.html [turnitin.com] , which includes

You grant iParadigms a non-exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, world-wide, irrevocable license to reproduce, transmit, display, disclose, and otherwise use your Communications on the Site or elsewhere for our business purposes.
If they have an objection to the system, they should take it up with their school.

Google parallel (1)

Jon Luckey (7563) | more than 7 years ago | (#18535071)

IANAL, but I don't see turnitin making copies, but they are using a copy given to them.

Google's main product is searching web sites. Therefore it has to read in sites and construct a search database for them. It doesn't have to distribute copies (leave aside that they sort of do by having an option for you to get the cached copy from them). Their product is basically a search against a database they have stored internally. Certainly the 'fair use'-ish extracts help the user quickly prune the resulting data, But thats not the main part of the search.

Turnitin may not even expose the cache they search from even to the extent Google does, so they are not making copies. They are using copies. Who made thos copies? The teachers submitting the papers to Turnitin, by the act of transmitting them to Turnitin. Perhaps that copying gets a pass under 'Educational Use'.

But if Turnitin get tagged for this, It may set a precident that could be used against google.
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