Team Murder No Brain No Headache.

31Mar/07Off

The Use Of Your Rights Involves Litigation Of Course

I'm pretty happy to hear about the lawsuit by students against Turn It In since the question they're asking is one that has bothered me for a long time. This is probably compounded by the incredibly aggressive spidering they employ to herd stuff into their databases. I've had to ban them by IP address as they do not conform to the robots.txt standard.

How do you handle something like this best? Do students suspend their copyright to submitted papers when turning them in for grading? If this is the case then graduate level work at universities that buy this software (well, it's less software than service but indulge me here) is going to become a legal minefield. This is one those questions that opens a seemingly unlimited series of canned worms. I'm sure someone more familiar with all of the copyright issues rolled into this could construct a legal textbook based on all of the questions potentially posed here.

Here are mine:

1. Do public schools who use Turnitin then require students to suspend their copyright ownership while this is being funded by public funds?

2. Who becomes the copyright holder? Does a state institution transfer the ownership of a copyrighted work created by a minor to a private corporation?

3. Because school attendance is legally mandated does a requirement like this place the onus probandi on students by insisting that they surrender legal rights in order to fulfill another legal requirement?

I'm operating under a lot of assumptions here and as IANAL I might be missing some or all of the precedent here but the situations I can imagine resulting from this are uncomfortable at very best.

Some more
In the comments attached to the news story above I found a link to collection of quotes and back story on Turnitin that has some pretty valid points and the juxtaposition of some quotes from people who run the company. Grrr.

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  1. If Turnitin was used as designed, as a teaching tool, allowing the students to do a self-check of their papers, this lawsuit probably never would have happened. Most people are ignorant to the fact that a large percentage of the student papers that are submitted consist of words and ideas taken from other authors without proper citation or acknowledgment. The student that initiated this whole scam lawsuit is a D level student. Do you think it is fair to the honest, hardworking students when the cheaters get better grades on papers by using what someone else wrote? Wake up people!!

  2. Reading the assignment is job one. I suggest that you actually read the linked article which actually says that the students behind the suit are A students and are being represented pro bono.

    I’m going to assume that you’re astro-turfing so we’ll leave any response to your zero reading comprehension comment at that.

  3. How in the fuck is software to detect cheating a “teaching tool”? At best it is a discipline tool, treating all students as criminals. No one is learning anything here, they’re simply adapting to the scrutiny.

    goneaway – I am also curious how it works if I quote a passage from a copyrighted work in an essay. If they are archiving my entire paper and adding it to their databases, they are archiving a snippet of a commercially available, copyrighted work. What are the odds that the copyrighted work that I have quoted under fair-use educational guidelines is being infringed upon by this process of reselling my quote of their work?


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