Facing student protest, high school slows down on plagiarism plan

Students claim that requiring them to submit their work to a commercial database violates their intellectual property rights.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor

In September, high schoolers at Virginia's McLean High School launched a rebellion. They formed a "committee for student' rights" and objected to the school's plans to require students to submit papers to TurnItIn. (See Kids don't want to turn it in).

In response, eSchoolNews reports, the school has modified its plans and will phase the program in over time.

The change comes after a group of students, members of the Committee for Students' Rights, called Turnitin.com's practice of adding their essays to its database an infringement of their intellectual-property rights. One of the school's students helped collect more than 1,100 signatures on a petition objecting to mandatory use of the service.
"We object to the mandatory use of our intellectual property by this web site," Ben Donovan, a senior at the school, posted. "We will turn our assignments in to our teachers and our teachers only, and we have the right to expect that our teachers will not turn around and reproduce those papers electronically, especially not for a for-profit third-party internet service. The administration has threatened us with failing grades if we refuse to use Turnitin.com. Is this legal? I know McGill University, a private university, couldn't do this, so how can a public high school?"

Donovan's post continues: "In any case, it looks like we are headed for a showdown at McLean that could go to court. We are currently consulting with lawyers as to where, exactly, we stand legally."

More than 6,000 academic institutions in 90 countries use TurnItIn.com. Fairfax County, Va., officials are confident the system is legal and doesn't violate students' rights.

Professors at Michigan's Grand Valley State University have released a letter saying that "students have intellectual-property rights to their writing that make problematic Turnitin's compilation of student texts."
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