Montgomery Blair High School's Online Student Newspaper
Wednesday, August 23, 2017 5:56 am
Latest:
Nov. 14, 2006

Con: Should teachers use Turnitin.com?

by Justin Vlasits, Design Team
Justin Vlasits says NO: The web site violates intellectual property rights.

Cheating happens. Whether it is the renowned historian stealing research from his graduate students for his bestselling books or the high schooler trying to get ahead in his or her Honors English class, plagiarism has increased drastically due to the availability of free information on the Internet. In 1999, 10 percent of students admitted to copying information from the Internet without attribution, according to a Duke University study. In 2005, the number had skyrocketed to 37 percent.

Over the same period, Turnitin.com has become one of the most popular ways for teachers and professors, from local high schools to world-renowned universities, to detect violations of academic integrity. While having only limited success preventing plagiarism, Turnitin.com violates the intellectual property rights of the students who are forced to submit their work.

Turnitin.com is designed to prevent theft not only from web resources such as scholarly journals and current events articles, but also from the work of other students. As a result, the subscription site compiles a database of all student work ever submitted in order to prevent students from using materials written by their peers, past and present. In effect, Turnitin.com makes a profit - about 80 cents per student, according to a Bloomberg article - by checking students' work for possible plagiarism and then using that work, without the author's express consent, to augment their database. Their database essentially is filled with student-written work that the web site has no right to use.

Article 1, Section 8.8 of the U.S. Constitution says that Congress should "promote progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries." Whether or not students plan on publishing their work does not matter. Turnitin.com has no right to use the work of others for their own profit when the students are not compensated. Especially at the college level, taking student work could be taking material from future books or other published works.

Because of the site's questionable legality, MCPS should discontinue use of Turnitin.com. Ironically, by stealing the students' intellectual property, Turnitin.com commits the very evil it claims to combat. If teachers believe that the web site is aiding in learning, they can request students and their parents to sign waivers authorizing Turnitin.com to use their work, thereby avoiding the abuse of the students' intellectual property rights.

And this further proves that students still plagiarize, even when their teachers require them to use Turnitin.com. In the case study, almost 9 percent of the assignments submitted had at least 25 percent of their material copied, constituting egregious plagiarism. The students knew that their work was being checked on the web site and continued to plagiarize. While students might be caught and reprimanded, Turnitin.com does not reinforce a positive message about academic integrity.

Checking in with students periodically and making them submit their work gradually creates an environment that fosters academic honesty. By giving the students incremental deadlines, they do not resort to plagiarism after procrastinating and not having enough time to write a paper properly.

Instead, the teacher can check for problems in the research process before the paper is written so that the students can learn the proper methods of citation and research, and the trust between student and teacher will never broken. On the contrary, it is enforced by a more proactive relationship between students and teachers.

If plagiarism is to be stopped once and for all, it must be through a mutual effort between both the teacher and the student not through a punishment-driven online detector such as Turnitin.com. Integrity can only be instilled, not commanded.



Share on Tumblr

Discuss this Article

Silver Chips Online invites you to share your thoughts about this article. Please use this forum to further discussion of the story topic and refrain from personal attacks and offensive language. SCO reserves the right to deny any comment. No comments that include hyperlinks will be posted. If you have a question for us, please include your email address or use this form.
 

  • Libertarian (View Email) on November 14, 2006 at 8:54 PM
    Interesting perspective, however I believe when you turn in an assignment you are forefiting your right to it as it now belongs to the teacher. I think they have the right to publish anything their students write (obviously giving credit to who wrote it). When you turn it in to the teachers, it's their property and they may submit your paper to turnitin.com. I'm not sure what the legal standing is for example if you want to publish your essay and the teacher tries to claim rights to it. I'm no lawyer, just giving what I think is right, I could be wrong here though.
    • NS on April 29, 2009 at 5:57 PM
      you are wrong, if I take my car into a garage to get fixed it doesn't make it the mechanics property.
  • Republican on November 14, 2006 at 8:59 PM
    Let's imagine a scenario where an evil teacher forces a student to plagiarize an essay or the evil teacher would commit murder. The student has no choice but to plagiarize.

    Similarly, this article just extended plagiarizing to one of the most extreme scenario and calls turnitin.com a violation of student rights.

    Turnitin.com is only an extremely extreme example of plagiarizing. It does not claim others work to be ones own.

    The rest of the article is wonderful; morals should be taught, not forced by turnitin.com. So true.
  • Sylvia Feicht (View Email) on November 17, 2006 at 8:19 AM
    You forgot the school library media specialist. For years teachers would ask me to check various papers for plagarism. We also worked closely together during the research phase. Research is a higher level thinking skill and requires that the teacher and librarian work together.
  • Melanie on November 17, 2006 at 8:30 AM
    Very nice article! "Whether or not students plan on publishing their work does not matter." Just one point of clarification - copyright law actually provides more protection to unpublished works (including student papers). The rationale behind this is that the author of an unpublished work should be allowed to decide when and where the work is first published. The fact that these are unpublished papers actually strengthens your argument that turnitin.com violates students' intellectual property rights.
  • Librarian on November 17, 2006 at 9:02 AM
    That's not how copyright works. Creators do not give up all rights to their creations simply because they handed them over to someone else. And if Turnitin is profitting from the use of these students' work, these students should receive compensation for it. That is basic copyright law.
  • librarydot on November 18, 2006 at 9:59 AM
    This is a well-written article in a very impressive online newspaper. However, you forgot an important player in the effort to stem the tide of academic dishonesty. Parents and other caregivers have an obligation to teach their children (well before high school!) that it's wrong, using both words and deeds.
  • Cynthia Meleson (View Email) on November 19, 2006 at 9:28 PM
    Well written and thought provoking article. It would be an interesting turn of events if a student developed a paper evolving out of a previous work and was cited for plagiarizing his own work. CMM, Ph.D. M.S. Library Science, and Student recently subjected to Turn-it-in.
  • Ted J (View Email) on November 29, 2006 at 1:50 PM
    You fail to prove or show what Turnitin is doing is illegal. Don't make statements you can't back up. You also fail to point out what the students are doing is in violation of copyright laws by plagiarizing material from other authors. Why should Turnitin compensate them for stealing from others?
    • Sarah S (View Email) on September 1, 2009 at 4:30 PM
      "Why should Turnitin compensate them for stealing from others?"
      Because it's the law.
  • fun with laws on January 4, 2007 at 10:02 AM
    First, this is probably something turnitin has thought about. Second, I�m bad about reading the fine-print when I use sites but I�m sure there�s something somewhere (a disclaimer) when you submit. Third, if there isn�t it�s probably in the contract the school has with turnitin and then you really should be fighting your school for violating Title 17. Additionally, there may be copyright problems but this also falls into the domain of contract law. By submitting your paper, you willingly establish an implicit contract with turnitin that would likely be upheld in a court of law. This is all why the American legal system is so much fun: the contract law would in this instance "cancel" violations of Title 17.

    With regards to fighting plagiarism, when such an extraordinarily large proportion of students commit academic dishonesty, we are essentially giving others precedent to assume we�re guilty. It�s not the responsibility of teachers or parents to stop plagiarism: it�s the students. We�re the ones who are willingly violating the rights of others in the first place (irony) and it�s nobody�s fault but our own that the academic world trusts us less and less each passing year.

    P.S. if any of you want to fight this legally, you first need to register your work with the U.S. copyright office ($35 fee)
  • turnitin.com on January 4, 2007 at 10:13 AM
    http://www.turnitin.com/static/usage.html

    "You grant iParadigms [turnitin] a non-exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, world-wide, irrevocable license to reproduce, transmit, display, disclose, and otherwise use your Communications on the Site or elsewhere for our business purposes. We are free to use any ideas, concepts, techniques, know-how in your Communications for any purpose, including, but not limited to, the development and use of products and services based on the Communications."
  • Chick-sick of all this on May 25, 2009 at 11:21 PM
    i agree i mean seriously im sick of stuff going through turn it in .com
    1- i have a limited amount of time to cram
    2- cant bs an excuse bout my printer
    3- i work hard but the stupid web site tells me im plagerizing
  • omnom (View Email) on April 26, 2013 at 8:57 PM
    DEATH TO THE ULTIMATE EVIL. MAY TURNITIN COUNT ITS DAYS
  • Shirleydevis (View Email) on January 23, 2015 at 12:56 AM
    Turnitin.com cannot instill integrity in students as they can get professional essay writers for hire. The need of the hour is for teachers to recognize the problems of working with students. http://www.myassignmentservice.com/
Jump to first comment

Recently Published

  1. Blair gets four new portables
  2. Keeping it in the family?
  3. Around the world in one week: exploring D.C.s restaurant scene
  4. Trump backtracked on plan to partner with Putin on cyber security unit
  5. The "Nicki Minaj Challenge" is a new viral craze
  6. Trump addresses street gang violence and illegal immigration
  7. Busing around town
  8. Pressure to be perfect
  9. "Despicable Me 3": a tale of despicable villainy and loving family
  10. The woman who left everyone wonderstruck