The Antiplagiarism Trap
Turnabout is fair play, it seems: Four high school students in Virginia are suing the popular antiplagiarism Web service Turnitin for what they say is copyright infringement.
Some 100,000 student papers are uploaded each day to Turnitin, which checks them against other papers and online sources and then adds them to its ever-expanding database. When suspicions of plagiarism arise, teachers can share the papers—without the students' names attached—for further analysis.
The four students’ suit, which asks for $150,000 per paper submitted by each of them, argues that Turnitin is essentially profiting from their work and violating their privacy rights. “The suit is not about plagiarism; it’s about the school forcing the students to turn over their work to a for-profit company,” says the father of one plaintiff.
The company maintains that it does not divulge any information about the students whose work is in its system, and that its product simply uses available technology to provide an essential service. “This really is a social good to make sure that students who are not doing their own work are not rewarded for that,” says John Barrie, the president of Turnitin's parent company, iParadigms.