Do Students Turn Over Their Rights When They Turn in Their Papers? A Case Study of Turnitin.com

Abstract

Turnitin is a rapidly growing online anti-plagiarism service subscribed to by thousands of schools in the United States. Though the pursuit of honesty and integrity are at the heart of our academic institutions and the Turnitin anti-plagiarism service, there is a fatal flaw in its execution. This comment examines the copyright and fair use arguments presented by four Virginia students asserting that Turnitin violated their intellectual property rights. This comment goes beyond the facts of the four Virginia students to explore the root issues of a service that collects and distributes the copyrighted works submitted to it by hundreds of students.

Despite the unsuccessful attempts to convince the District Court and Circuit Court of appeals that their rights were violated it is patently clear that the rights of the students were infringed. This comment delves deep into not only the copyright and fair use arguments, but also scrutinizes the contract issues and privacy implications of a service like Turnitin’s.

Unfortunately, students will always find ways to cheat, but it is unacceptable to cheat them out of their legal rights. Educators should lead by example and respect the privacy and intellectual property rights of all students, even if the consequences are difficult to accept.

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