Students Lose, Fair Use Wins in Suit Targeting Anti-Plagiarism Tool

Marc Parry, Tidsskriftet for Universiteternes Efter- og Videreuddannelse, Apr 21, 2009
Commentary by Stephen Downes

It's pretty much definitive now that the use of student essays by sites such as TurnItIn is not a violation of copyright. The sites compare newly submitted work with past and published work in order to detect plagiarism. In what is unambiguously a win for fair use (though not a loss for 'students') the court ruled that the use was "transformative" and hence protected. "It [the ruling] underscores that the copyright owner's rights are simply not absolute and that 'transformative' uses deserve protection themselves." Well and good, but one wonders whether the courts would be so fair as to award students a similar verdict were they using, say, songs or videos in a similar transformative way.
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