Four high school students filed a lawsuit because their school uses the Turnitin service in order to find/detect plagiarism in student work. The students believe that teacher upload of their work to Turnitin and Turnitin in turn keeping that work in their database, perhaps forever, is an infringement on copyright.

This practice between schools and Turnitin brings up really important questions about intellectual property for teens, schools, and libraries. Teachers and librarians work with teens to help them understand how to keep legal when it comes to copyright. Then when these same adults take student work and upload it to a database that does lead to questions about what copyright is all about and when someone has rights to someone else’s work.

It also brings up questions of trust and responsibility. What message does the use of a service like Turnitin send to teens? Are there ways to use this service without it being an infringement of student copyright and as a way to explore copyright and plagiarism? Is a search on the web – deep and shallow – as effective as using Turnitin?

Questions to ponder and questions to definitely talk with teens about. What do they think of something like Turnitin? What would they suggest teachers and librarians do instead of using this service?

Read more about the student lawsuit at Ars Technica.

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.

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