Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Students suing SW company for copyright infringement

Yes, you read that correctly, not the other way around.

The Patry Copyright Blog (a good, if thick, read - think 'Copyright equivalent of Freakonomics, written by an attorney') has this interesting story, best summed up as follows:

- A number of schools use an anti-plagiarism software service called Turnitin from a company called iParadigms.
- The service works by allowing teachers to enter students works, where they are compared against a database of 22 million student papers and other resources.
- The student papers are then added to the database. (see where this is going?)
- The students papers are copyrighted works, and the students never granted this software company permission to store a copy of their works for their use.
- A couple of high school students are suing the company for this reason.

Cheeky monkeys. :-)

Sure, the use is a well-intentioned one, but that doesn't matter. The company argues fair use, but their software is worthless without the database and thus they are deriving commercial value from it, and that's not fair use. At least it's debatable.

[update: Looking this up in wikipedia, it appears they've been challenged a couple times before, most notably by some McGill students first. Go Montrealers!]


adam lake said...

I realize your point about the fact that the company is worthless without the database, but i think there are a coiuple ways this can work: students give permission and are paid a small royalty every time their ascii is hit, or company uses links where people maintain their own database. most will opt for the company to manage it. company only sends checks out if they get over 50 bucks and give a .001 cent royalty for each search and you're in good shape. company has to charge a bit more, rolls this into their costs.

kim said...

Yeah, it *could* workt that way. However, to your point:

>students give permission and are paid a small royalty every time their ascii is hit

They haven't; and they aren't. And that's the issue. They were never 22 million papers in there and not one student was ever asked if their work could be included.