To Students’ Dismay, Plagiarism Detection Website Protected by “Fair Use”
By Sharona Hakimi – Edited by Stephanie Weiner
A.V. v. iParadigms, L.L.C., April 16, 2009, No. 08-1424
On April 16, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed a summary judgment ruling by the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, holding that archiving of student works by commercial plagiarism detection website TurnItIn.com is a “fair use” under the Copyright Act, and therefore does not violate the students’ copyrights in their work. Additionally, Circuit Judge Traxler remanded the case to lower court to reconsider the defendant’s counterclaim for monetary damages under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. 1030, based on one plaintiff’s unauthorized access to the site.
The case arose when the plaintiffs were forced by their high school teachers to electronically submit their written work and assent to an online agreement with TurnItIn.com. The website compares student papers to a database of other essays to find instances of plagiarism. At issue was whether the website, operated by defendant iParadigms L.L.C., violated the students’ copyright rights to their work when it archived them for future comparison with other student works.
David Kravets of Wired summarizes the opinion. Nate Anderson, writer for Ars Technica (and a former teacher), analyzes the case and its potential revolutionary effects on education. A recent magazine interview with John M. Barrie, CEO of iParadigms, expresses Barrie’s goals for plagiarism detection services. A 2007 news article discusses the original filing of the case.