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Appeals Court Rules that TurnItIn Plagiarism Detection Service Does Not Violate Students' Copyrights

A recent decision from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rules that students' copyrights were not violated by plagiarism detection service TurnItIn, even though the works were archived.

From ars technica:

The federal decision (PDF) reads like a primer on "fair use," which was the legal doctrine that TurnItIn relied upon for its activities.

TurnItIn has known for years that this would be a sensitive issue, and in 2002 commissioned an opinion (PDF) from law firm Foley & Lardner. The group concluded that the use of the papers constituted fair use, but admitted that "the archival of a submitted work is perhaps the most legally sensitive aspect of the TURNITIN system." The lawyers argue that because the text is not displayed or distributed to anyone, it can hardly be called "infringement." Fair use should allow TurnItIn to do what it does.

A federal court agreed that this was legal, for two reasons. First, TurnItIn required students to enter into a "binding agreement" when they uploaded papers to the site. Second, TurnItIn's use was "fair" according to the four factors found in US copyright law, with most weight being given to the "transformative" nature of what TurnItIn was doing with the papers.

The Appeals Court agreed with this analysis. "Plaintiffs also argue that [Parent company] iParadigms' use of their works cannot be transformative because the archiving process does not add anything to the work--TurnItIn merely stores the work unaltered and in its entirety. This argument is clearly misguided," wrote the court.

Source: Library Link of the Day