Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Lessons from the plagiarism beat

Erica Hendry, Students Reach Settlement in Turnitin Suit, Chronicle of Higher Education, August 3, 2009.  Excerpt:

A two-year battle over copyright infringement between four students and Turnitin, a commerical plagiarism-detection service, came to an apparent end last Friday in a settlement that prohibits either party from taking further legal action.

The high-school students first sued iParadigms, Turnitin's parent company, in 2007 for copyright infringement, saying the company took their papers against their will and then made a profit from them. The students' high schools required them to use the service, which scans papers for plagiarism and then adds them to its database, which students argued could easily be hacked.

But the students and their lawyers were handed two decisions against them -- first from the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., in March 2008 and again this April from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

The Chronicle reported in March 2008 that the district-court judge said Turnitin's actions fell under fair use, ruling that the company “makes no use of any work’s particular expressive or creative content beyond the limited use of comparison with other works." He also said the new use “provides a substantial public benefit.” ...

Comment.  Under this standard for fair use, wouldn't Google have prevailed against the Authors Guild and Association of American Publishers, making the whole complicated and controversial Google book settlement unnecessary?

Update (8/5/09).  I'm pleased to say that Peter Jaszi, who knows copyright law better than most and far better than I, is also encouraged by the Turnitin decision.