Turning the tables on an anti-plagiarism service, four high school students have brought suit against the online service claiming that it violates copyright law, Turnitin, a service that compares student term papers and essays against a database of more than 22 million student papers, online sources and journal archives, to see if students have plagiarized. At issue is whether the company adds the students' papers to a databbase without permission.
"All of these kids are essentially straight-A students, and they have no interest in plagiarizing," said Robert A. Vanderhye, an attorney representing the students pro bono. "The problem with [Turnitin] is the archiving of the documents. They are violating a right these students have to be in control of their own property."
The students obtained copyright registration for the papers they submitted to Turnitin. A letter specifying not to archive the paper was submitted, as well. The lawsuit, filed against Turnitin's parent company, iParadigms LLC, seeks $150,000 for each of six papers written by the students.
"Typically, if you quote something for education purposes, scholarship or news reports, that's considered fair use," said Andrew Beckerman-Rodau, co-director of the intellectual property law program at Suffolk University Law School. "But it seems like Turnitin is a commercial use. They turn around and sell this service, and it's expensive. And the service only works because they get these papers."