My antipathy toward Turnitin (and its parent company, iParadigms) isn't political. It's personal. I don't like seeing my kids being extorted. I don't like seeing the papers they take so long to write used to profit a private company. I don't like the idea that stuff my kids write at 16 will be stored forever by an ethically-challenged corporation that may one day decide to release it to prospective colleges, employers, governments and other corporations. I don't like the message that is sent to kids by Turnitin, which is that what they create has no value, doesn't matter and isn't worth protecting.
But after seeing this little graphic on one of Turnitin's webpages today, I wonder if their politics is yet another thing I don't much like about them.
[Other posts about Turnitin are available here, here and here.]
As noted previously, Turnitin.com blindsided my sons' school by attempting to get kids--the vast majority of whom are minors, and many of whom are as young as 14--to click through a new user agreement. Apparently Turnitin didn't think it was important to tell school officials in advance that this was going down and that it was going around both the school and the district's parents in this manner.
This is par for the course for iParadigms, the company that runs Turnitin, which makes its living by extorting children's property away from them.
Few parents have even both to read the new user agreement that Turnitin has secretly tried to impose on their children. As a public service, I am reproducing it here in its entirety, along with my interpretative and critical comments. Note that the truly unconscionable parts of the agreement appear towards the end, presumably because Turnitin figures people will be intellectually numb to them after reading all the boilerplate.
Turnitin.com (the "Site") and its services are maintained by
iParadigms, LLC ("iParadigms"), and offered to you, the user ("You" or
"User"), conditioned upon Your acceptance of the terms, conditions, and
notices contained herein without modification (the "User Agreement").
By clicking the "I agree -- create profile" button below You: (1)
represent that You have read and understand, and have the capacity and
authority to enter into, this User Agreement; and (2) agree to be bound
by all of its terms and conditions. You should review this User
Agreement carefully. If You breach the User Agreement, Your
authorization to use the Site may automatically terminate.
In its very first paragraph, this agreement encourages kids to lie. First, it says that the people clicking their agreement represent that they have read and understood the agreement. It's questionable to my mind that all that many educated adults would understand this agreement; I think it's beyond debate that your average 15 year old isn't going to get it. But of course, Turnitin isn't about education: it's about theft and deception. Second, it says that the people clicking through the agreement represent that they have the "capacity and authority" to do so. A minor does not have the legal capacity to enter into a contract that may be enforced against him, and the authority to do so cannot be conferred by a school. So unless parents are hovering over their children as they log in and clicking for them, Turnitin wants kids to lie.
Scope of Services
The Site offers certain software ("Licensed Programs"),
documentation and services, together with other content, data, images,
information and other materials (together, the "Services") which allow
authorized educational institutions ("Educational Institutions"), and
teachers, instructors, professors or other faculty members who are
currently teaching a registered class (together, "Instructors") to
check enrolled students' work for possible textual matches against
Internet-available resources and iParadigms' own proprietary database.
Here is the first reference to Turnitin's "proprietary database," which consists in significant part of papers that have been submitted through Turnitin. The use of the word "proprietary" is quite deliberate: its first definition is "belonging to a proprietor." Turnitin is claiming here that it owns the papers submitted to it. It's not saying that students own their papers and Turnitin is simply using or borrowing them; it is directly asserting ownership of student work product.
The Site is owned and operated by iParadigms. iParadigms, its
subsidiaries, affiliates, licensors and/or vendors own all rights in
and to the Services on or directly accessible from the Site, all
materials created by the Services, including the format of reports
evaluating textual sources ("Originality Reports"), and all
intellectual property rights related thereto. The Site is protected by
United States and international copyright and trademark laws. With the
exception of the limited license granted below, nothing contained
herein shall be construed as granting You any right, title, or interest
in the Services or any of iParadigms' intellectual property or
proprietary information. Any rights not expressly granted to You by
this User Agreement or any other agreement with iParadigms are reserved
by iParadigms and/or its affiliates, vendors and licensors.
Given that Turnitin is a large and profitable concern that can
presumably afford good lawyers, it's hard to believe that the
sloppiness and ambiguity of the language here is anything but
deliberate. It expressly says that Turnitin owns "'all
materials created by the Services, including the format of reports
evaluating textual sources ("Originality Reports"), and all
intellectual property rights related thereto" (emphasis added). Are the "intellectual property rights" that Turnitin says it owns "all" of the rights in the reports themselves, the format of the reports, or the "textual sources"? It can be fairly read to encompass any or all of those possibilities. Of course, the "textual sources" are student papers. Once a student submits a paper to Turnitin, Turnitin owns it.
iParadigms, LLC and other names of iParadigms products and/or
services included on the Site are the trademarks and service marks of
iParadigms. iParadigms' trademarks and service marks may not be used in
connection with any product or service that is not iParadigms', in any
manner that is likely to cause confusion among customers without
express written permission. All other trademarks, service marks and
logos used in the Site are the trademarks, service marks or logos of
their respective owners. iParadigms does not make any claims to the
marks of others which might appear on the Site. You gain no right to
use any marks of iParadigms or any other entity by virtue of Your use
of the Site.
How ironic that a company that makes its profit by expropriating the intellectual property of others is so zealous about protecting its own trademarks. Of course, irony is the chief byproduct of a service that in the name of protecting authors from plagiarism routinely extorts and steals from other authors.
Use of the Site and Services is limited to Authorized Users (as
defined below) who are eighteen (18) years of age or older or, as set
forth below, who are between 14 and 17 years of age with consent of a
parent or guardian.
Authorized Users are: (i) school administrators of Educational
Institutions ("School Administrators"), (ii) Instructors, and (iii)
students who are properly enrolled in a registered class at an
Educational Institution ("Students").
By entering this User Agreement and in consideration for Your use of
the Site, You represent that You are an Authorized User who is over
eighteen (18) years of age and can form a binding contract. You further
represent that You are not barred from receiving the Services or using
the Site under the laws of the United States or other applicable
jurisdiction. You further agree that You have not and will not obtain
access to the Site by means of a password not specifically issued to
You by iParadigms, an Instructor, or School Administrator for a class
in which you are properly enrolled.
If You are between fourteen (14) and seventeen (17) years of age or
have not reached the age of majority in your jurisdiction of residence
(together, "Not of Majority Age"), You may not enter the Site except
with the supervision and permission of a parent or legal guardian. If
You are Not of Majority Age, You must have a parent or legal guardian
review and agree to this User Agreement by clicking the "I agree --
Create Profile" button below.
You may not use the Site if You are thirteen (13) years of age or
younger. If You are enrolled in a class that requires You to submit
papers to the Site, please talk to Your parents and teachers to have
them arrange for submission of the paper for review.
Cute. Turnitin, of course, takes absolutely no steps to ensure that minors are not clicking agreement to their contract. It could easily have appended a form to the user agreement that would have to be filled out wherein the parents of minors would enter their names and contact information so Turnitin could verify that kids aren't signing away their property rights without their parents consent. But that wouldn't be in Turnitin's interests at all. Again, in my sons' school district, Turnitin attempted to bypass parents and school administrators completely.
iParadigms hereby grants You a non-transferable, non-exclusive
license to use the Services and Site, solely for non-commercial use.
You agree to use the Site and Services only as follows: (i) if You are
a School Administrator, only in connection with registered classes
offered through Your Educational Institution, (ii) if You are an
Instructor, only in connection with registered classes You are
currently teaching, or (iii) if You are a Student, only in connection
with a registered class in which You are enrolled. No other license is
granted by implication, estoppel or otherwise.
There is another ambiguity here--or perhaps an inconsistency. Is the "you" in this paragraph the minor user of the site, or the parent who has clicked agreement on his or her behalf? Again, by being deliberately conflating the identity of the user with the identity of the person clicking through the agreement, Turnitin is blurring the lines of authority. I suspect this is because the very last thing Turnitin wants is for parents to actually be aware that everything their children write and submit through Turnitin will remain Turnitin's to use forever and ever, without limitation, in any way they see fit.
You may not modify, copy, distribute, transmit, display, perform,
reproduce, publish, license, create derivative works from, transfer, or
sell any information, Licensed Programs or Services from the Site
without the prior written consent of iParadigms, except that You may
download content from the Site to any single computer solely for
purposes authorized by this User Agreement, provided You keep intact
all copyright, trademark, and other proprietary notices. You may not
market, rent, lease, or re-license the Licensed Programs or Services,
or use the Licensed Programs or Services for third party commercial
use, commercial timesharing, or service bureau use.
You further agree not to cause or permit the disassembly,
decompilation, recompilation, or reverse engineering of any Licensed
Program or technology underlying the Site. In jurisdictions where a
right to reverse engineer is provided by law unless information is
available about products in order to achieve interoperability,
functional compatibility, or similar objectives, You agree to submit a
detailed written proposal to iParadigms concerning any information You
need for such purposes before engaging in reverse engineering.
Except as provided in this User Agreement, any use of any Licensed
Program or the Services on any other Web site or networked computer
environment for any purpose is prohibited.
The Site is controlled and operated by iParadigms from its offices
within the State of California, United States of America. iParadigms
makes no representation that materials in the Site are appropriate or
available for use in other locations. Those who choose to access the
Site from other locations do so on their own initiative and at their
own risk and are responsible for compliance with applicable laws. Any
Licensed Program or Services are further subject to United States
export controls and, potentially, the import laws of Your jurisdiction.
No Licensed Program or Services may be downloaded or otherwise exported
or re-exported to any person or entity on the U.S. Treasury
Department's list of Specially Designated Nationals or the U.S.
Commerce Department's Table of Denial Orders or otherwise prohibited by
United States export control laws. By downloading or otherwise using
any Licensed Programs or Services in any manner whatsoever, You
represent and warrant that You are not on any such list or located in,
under the control of, or a national or resident of any such country.
Any use of the Licensed Programs or the Services by the U.S.
Government, including but not limited to any Educational Institutions
under its jurisdiction or under the corresponding States' jurisdiction,
is subject to 'restricted rights' as that term is defined in FAR
52.227-19(c)(2) or DFAR 252.227.7013(c)(1) (if used in a defense
Remember, by clicking agreement, people represent that they understood all that. I was struck by this bit about warranting that you are not on the "U.S. Treasury
Department's list of Specially Designated Nationals or the U.S.
Commerce Department's Table of Denial Orders." How do you know if you're on that list? And if you don't know whether you're on that list and don't know how to find out, how can you honestly click "I Agree"? Once again, Turnitin doesn't really want people to tell it the truth; it simply wants people to click without knowing or understanding--a truly abysmal example of corporate citizenship.
As a condition of Your use of the Site and the Services, You warrant
to iParadigms that You will not use the Site for any purpose that is
unlawful or prohibited by this User Agreement.
Since being required by a public school to turn one's intellectual property over to a private, for-profit company as a condition of receiving a grade or credit is illegal, how could the site be used for anything other than an unlawful purpose by public high school students?
Registration, Password and Class Identification Security
In consideration of Your use of the Site, You agree to provide
accurate, current and complete information about You as may be prompted
by any registration forms on the Site ("Registration Data") and update
the Registration Data as required to keep it accurate, current and
Here we have the specter of 14 year old high school students being required to submit whatever personal information Turnitin decides it might need, once again without notifying parents or the school. Turnitin expressly reserves the right to condition provision of its services upon students turning over personal information to iParadigms. Not only is this a violation of FERPA, but once again it demonstrates Turnitin's general lack of business ethics.
If You are a School Administrator, You agree (i) to provide account
or class identification numbers and passwords only to Instructors, (ii)
not to rent, lease or provide access to or benefits from the Services
to any other institution, entity or individual, and (iii) not to make
statements that Your Educational Institution is using the Services in
connection with a particular class when the relevant class is not
If You are an Instructor, You agree (i) to provide class
identification numbers and passwords only to Students properly enrolled
in the relevant registered class, and (ii) not to make statements that
Your class is using the Services when such class is not registered.
If You are a student, You warrant and represent that (i) You are
enrolled in the class for which You have been provided an
identification number and password, and (ii) the password with which
You are entering the Site is Your own which has been specifically
issued to you by iParadigms, or an Instructor or School Administrator.
You are entirely responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of
Your password and you agree not to share Your password with any other
person, whether directly or indirectly. You agree to use reasonable
efforts to retain the confidentiality of class identification numbers
and passwords. In no circumstance shall You transmit or make Your
password or class identification number or any other passwords for the
Site or class identification numbers available in any public forum,
including, but not limited to any web page, blog, advertisement or
other posting on the Internet, any public bulletin board, and any file
that is accessible in a peer-to-peer network. You agree not to use the
class identification number or password of a class for which You are
not presently enrolled or teaching to access the Site. You agree to
notify iParadigms immediately if You suspect any unauthorized use of
Your account or access to Your password or class identification number.
You are solely responsible for any and all use of Your account.
iParadigms may, in its sole discretion, suspend or terminate Your
access to the Site to (i) prevent damages to, or degradation of, the
Services; (ii) comply with any law, regulation, court order, or other
governmental request; (iii) otherwise protect iParadigms from potential
legal liability; or (iv) address a breach of this User Agreement.
iParadigms shall use reasonable efforts to provide You with notice
prior to or promptly following any suspension of access to the Site. In
its sole discretion, iParadigms shall restore access to the Site within
a reasonable time period after the event giving rise to suspension has
been resolved to iParadigms' satisfaction.
If You are a School Administrator or Instructor, You agree to
maintain any of iParadigms' notices (including legal notices relating
to iParadigms' proprietary rights (e.g., copyright and trademark
notices) and disclaimers on Originality Reports. You further agree to
exercise Your independent professional judgment in, and to assume sole
and exclusive responsibility for, determining the actual existence of
plagiarism in a submitted paper with the acknowledgement and
understanding that the Originality Reports are only tools for detecting
textual similarities between compared works and do not determine
conclusively the existence of plagiarism, which determination is a
matter of professional judgment of the Instructor and Institution. Any
disclosure of an Originality Report to any third party is at Your own
This gets at the heart of what Turnitin is supposed to help teachers do, i.e., detect plagiarism. It's interesting that Turnitin won't stand behind its reports, and instead seeks to place the risk of falsely accusing students of plagiarism on the teachers themselves. If Turnitin has so little confidence in the utility of its report that it won't stand behind their accuracy, why should teachers and students have such confidence?
communications or material of any kind that You e-mail, post, or
transmit through the Site (excluding personally identifiable
Registration Data of Students, any papers submitted to the Site, and
grades and assessment related information), including, questions,
comments, suggestions, and other data and information (Your
"Communications") will be treated as non-confidential and
iParadigms may, but is not obligated to, monitor or review any areas
of the Site where user Communications may be made available, including,
but not limited to, chat rooms, bulletin boards, and other user forums.
Communications submitted by users do not necessarily represent the view
or opinions of iParadigms. iParadigms does not preview user
Communications before they appear on the Site. iParadigms will have no
liability related to the content of any such Communications, whether or
not arising under the laws of copyright, defamation, privacy,
obscenity, or otherwise. iParadigms retains the right to remove, in its
sole discretion, Communications that include any material deemed
abusive, defamatory, obscene, or otherwise inappropriate.
See what I mean about no privacy? They reserve the right to monitor children's communications with each other and with their teachers.
Acceptable Use Policy
You may not transmit any Communications on or through the Site that
(a) restricts any other user's enjoyment of the Site, (b) is unlawful,
threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, pornographic, profane or
otherwise offensive, (c) constitutes or encourages criminal conduct,
gives rise to civil liability, or otherwise violates any law, (d)
violates or infringes the rights of any third party including, without
limitation, patent, copyright, trademark, privacy or any other
proprietary right, (e) contains a virus or other harmful component, or
(f) contains false or misleading indications of origin or statements of
fact. iParadigms reserves the right, but shall have no obligation to
edit or remove any Communication, in whole or in part, that in
iParadigms' sole discretion is objectionable, disruptive to the Site or
in violation of this User Agreement. iParadigms reserves the right to
immediately suspend Your access to the Site in the event of any
violation of this provision.
I suppose a communication to the effect that Turnitin extorts children would probably be considered disruptive to the site and removed. So much for academic freedom.
You may not frame or utilize framing techniques to use, surround or
enclose any portion of the Site without iParadigms' express written
License to Use Communications and Papers Submitted
You grant iParadigms a non-exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual,
world-wide, irrevocable license to reproduce, transmit, display,
disclose, archive and otherwise use Your Communications on the Site or
elsewhere for our business purposes. iParadigms is free to use any
ideas, concepts, techniques, know-how or information in Your
Communications for any purpose, including, but not limited to, the
development and use of products and services based on the
Communications. This license does not include any right to use ideas
set forth in papers submitted to the site. Please note that papers
submitted to the Site are not read or reviewed by any individuals, but
rather are only analyzed using the Licensed Programs. However, nothing
herein shall preclude iParadigms from using information independently
created by iParadigms.
With regard to papers submitted to the Site, You hereby grant
iParadigms a non-exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, world-wide,
irrevocable license to reproduce, transmit, display, disclose, archive
and otherwise use in connection with its Services any paper You submit
to the Site whether or not originally submitted in connection with a
specific class. This license shall survive the termination of the User
Agreement. Any cessation of use of the Site shall not result in the
termination of any license You grant herein to iParadigms.
At last we get down to brass tacks--or maybe brass knuckles would be an more appropriate metaphor. Let me repeat here the essence of Turnitin's position: "With regard to papers submitted to the Site, You hereby grant
iParadigms a non-exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, world-wide,
irrevocable license to reproduce, transmit, display, disclose, archive
and otherwise use in connection with its Services any paper You submit
to the Site . . . ." Here, baldly stated, is Turnitin's business model. Students create; Turnitin steals and uses in any manner it sees fit. It could publish a best-selling book of student papers--and the students who wrote the papers wouldn't see a dime. Remember that embarrassingly personal paper you wrote for sophomore English? Turnitin could publish it in the newspaper. Has your son or daughter written about private and intimate details of his or her life and family? Turnitin will hold onto that forever and may disclose it whenever, wherever and however it sees fit.
Procedure for Making Claims of Copyright Infringement
In accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (17 U.S.C.
Â§ 512) ("DMCA"), iParadigms is registered with the United States
Copyright Office as a Service Provider. Any notifications of claimed
copyright infringement must be sent to our Copyright Agent:
John Barrie, CEO
1624 Franklin Street, 7th Floor
Oakland, CA 94612
Of course, later in the agreement Turnitin says they won't bother responding to any such notifications. Read on.
iParadigms respects the intellectual property of others, and we ask
our users to do the same. If you believe that your work has been copied
by a third party and posted to the Site in a way that constitutes
copyright infringement, please provide iParadigms' Copyright Agent the
1. An electronic or physical signature of the person authorized to act on beÂhalf of the owner of the copyright interest;
2. A description of the copyrighted work that You claim has been infringed;
3. A description of where the material that You claim is infringing is located on the Site;
4. Your address, telephone number, and email address;
5. A statement by You that You have a good faith belief that the
disputed use is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or
6. A statement by You, made under penalty of perjury, that the above
information in Your Notice is accurate and that You are the copyright
owner or authorized to act on the copyright owner's behalf.
If You materially misrepresent material on the Site as infringing,
when it is not, or when You are not the lawful copyright holder, You
may be liable for damages, including court costs and attorneys fees.
That first sentence--about how much iParadigms respects the intellectual property of others--is a real howler. And that bit at the end, about how you assume liability for falsely accusing someone of infringing on your copyright, is pretty ironic, especially when as noted above, Turnitin refuses to accept such liability itself.
You hereby acknowledge that the DMCA notice does not cover a
circumstance in which a paper or other Communication You submitted has
been archived on the Site. You agree not to submit a DMCA notice
claiming direct infringement by iParadigms. iParadigms will not respond
to such notices.
Here's an arrogant bit of legal sophistry. Of course the DMCA covers "circumstance[s] in which a paper or other Communication You submitted has
been archived on the Site." But if you click "I Agree," you're agreeing with the preposterous notion that you have no recourse whatsoever against Turnitin for their expropriation of your or your child's work product. In other words, you have to agree to be ripped off.
By entering this User Agreement, You further represent that You have
http://www.turnitin.com/static/legal/privacy_pledge.html) and agree to
As noted above, Turnitin doesn't even seem to know what its own privacy document is called or where it's located. The correct URL for their "Privacy Pledge" is http://www.turnitin.com/static/privacy.html.
THE SITE AND ALL INFORMATION AND SERVICES AVAILABLE THROUGH THE SITE
ARE PROVIDED "AS IS," WITH ALL FAULTS, AND "AS AVAILABLE". IPARADIGMS
DOES NOT WARRANT THAT THE SITE WILL MEET YOUR REQUIREMENTS, OR THAT ANY
RESULTS OR COMPARISONS GENERATED BY THE SITE WILL BE COMPLETE OR
ACCURATE. IPARADIGMS DOES NOT WARRANT THAT ACCESS TO THE SITE OR THE
OPERATION OF THE SERVICES OR LICENSED PROGRAMS WILL BE UNINTERRUPTED OR
ERROR-FREE, OR THAT DEFECTS IN THE SITE WILL BE CORRECTED. TO THE
FULLEST EXTENT PERMISSIBLE BY LAW, IPARADIGMS DISCLAIMS ALL
REPRESENTATIONS AND WARRANTIES, EXPRESS, IMPLIED OR STATUTORY,
INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, CONFORMITY TO ANY REPRESENTATION OR
DESCRIPTION, MERCHANTABILITY, QUALITY OF INFORMATION, QUIET ENJOYMENT,
TITLE, NON-INFRINGEMENT AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.
Whoa--there's a lot to read there and it's ALL IN CAPITAL LETTERS so
it must be really, really important, right? Or perhaps it's in all
caps because they're harder to read and Turnitin doesn't want people
reading about how they don't stand behind their product. Here,
rendered in typography that is actually conducive to reading, is the key passage: "iParadigms doest not warrant that the site will meet your requirements, or that any results or comparisons generated by the site will be complete or accurate. " In other words, even though schools are paying Turnitin good money for an accurate comparison of papers to it against other papers stored in its database, Turnitin doesn't stand behind its product. They can just make stuff up, you know, and they haven't breached their warranty. I pity the kid who is falsely accused of plagiarism based on a report by a company that won't even agree that its report is accurate. The other part I love is that Turnitin "disclaims all representations and warranties, express, implied or statutory." Such disclaimers are illegal in some states, but since Turnitin imagines that it is above the law, that doesn't seem to trouble it very much.
THE SERVICES ARE ACCESSED AND USED OVER THE INTERNET. YOU
ACKNOWLEDGE AND AGREE THAT IPARADIGMS DOES NOT OPERATE OR CONTROL THE
INTERNET AND THAT: (I) VIRUSES, WORMS, TROJAN HORSES, OR OTHER
UNDESIRABLE DATA OR SOFTWARE; OR (II) UNAUTHORIZED USERS (e.g.,
HACKERS) MAY ATTEMPT TO OBTAIN ACCESS TO AND DAMAGE USER'S DATA,
COMPUTERS, OR NETWORKS. IPARADIGMS SHALL NOT BE RESPONSIBLE FOR SUCH
Due to routine maintenance, updates or other technical reasons, the
Site and the Services may be temporarily unavailable from time to time.
iParadigms assumes no responsibility for any error, omission,
interruption, deletion, defect, delay in operation or transmission,
communications line failure, theft or destruction or unauthorized
access to, or alteration of any paper submitted by You or any User
Communications. iParadigms is not responsible for any technical
malfunction or other problems of any telephone network or service,
computer systems, servers or providers, computer or mobile phone
equipment, software, failure of email or players on account of
technical problems or traffic congestion on the Internet or at any Site
or combination thereof, including injury or damage to any Authorized
User's or to any other person's computer, mobile phone, or other
hardware or software, related to or resulting from using or downloading
materials in connection with the Site and/or in connection with the
Services. Under no circumstances will iParadigms be responsible for any
loss or damage, including any loss or damage to any of Your content or
personal injury or death, resulting from anyone's use of the Site or
the Services, or any Communications whether online or offline.
In other words, if you've got a paper due in two hours and you try to submit it but the site's down and you can't send it in and get a zero, that's not Turnitin's fault. Whose fault that is remains to be explained.
Limitation of Liability
NEITHER IPARADIGMS, NOR ITS LICENSORS OR SUPPLIERS, WILL BE LIABLE
UNDER ANY THEORY FOR DAMAGES OF ANY KIND (INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION
DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, CONSEQUENTIAL, EXEMPLARY DAMAGES OR
DAMAGES RESULTING FROM LOST PROFITS, LOST DATA, OR BUSINESS
INTERRUPTION) ARISING FROM THE YOUR USE OF THE SITE, THE SERVICES OR
THE INFORMATION CONTAINED THEREIN, HOWEVER ARISING, EVEN IF IPARADIGMS,
ITS AFFILIATES OR ANY OF THEIR REPRESENTATIVES HAVE BEEN ADVISED OF THE
POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES. THIS LIMITATION DOES NOT APPLY TO THE
EXTENT IT IS PROHIBITED BY LAW.
IF YOU ARE AN EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTION OR INSTRUCTOR, YOU AGREE THAT
REGARDLESS OF THE TYPE OF CLAIM OR THE NATURE OF THE CAUSE OF ACTION,
IN NO EVENT WILL IPARADIGMS OR ITS AFFILIATES, OFFICERS, EMPLOYEES,
AGENTS OR LICENSORS, BE LIABLE FOR: (I) ANY DECISION MADE OR ACTION
TAKEN OR NOT TAKEN IN RELIANCE UPON ANY ORIGINALITY REPORT OR ANY OTHER
INFORMATION PROVIDED THROUGH THE SERVICES; (II) FOR ANY LIABILITY
ARISING FROM YOUR DISCLOSURE OF AN ORIGINALITY REPORT TO ANY THIRD
This is not even so much a release of liability as it is a hopeful statement of the outcome of potential litigation. Turnitin is and should be liable for its complicity in academic extortion, its violation of copyright law and FERPA, and its own negligence and criminal behavior.
IF YOU ARE A STUDENT OR INSTRUCTOR, YOUR SOLE REMEDY FOR
DISSATISFACTION WITH THE SITE, THE SERVICES, AND/OR HYPERLINKED WEB
SITES IS TO STOP USING THE SITE AND/OR THOSE SERVICES.
Right. 'Cause you wouldn't really want to, you know, sue us, right?
WITHOUT LIMITING ANY OTHER PROVISION OF THIS USER AGREEMENT, IF YOU
ARE AN EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTION, IPARADIGMS AND ITS AFFILIATES,
OFFICERS, EMPLOYEES, AGENTS OR LICENSORS' TOTAL CUMULATIVE LIABILITY
ARISING UNDER OR RELATED TO THIS USER AGREEMENT AND THE SERVICES,
WHETHER IN CONTRACT, TORT OR OTHERWISE, WILL NOT EXCEED THE AMOUNTS, IF
ANY, PAID TO IPARADIGMS BY YOU FOR THE SERVICES DURING THE TWELVE (12)
MONTHS IMMEDIATELY PRECEDING THE EVENT GIVEN RISE TO LIABILITY. SOME
JURISDICTIONS DO NOT ALLOW THE LIMITATION OR EXCLUSION OF LIABILITY FOR
INCIDENTAL OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES; IN THOSE JURISDICTIONS IPARADIGMS'
LIABILITY UNDER THIS USER AGREEMENT SHALL BE LIMITED TO THE GREATEST
EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW.
CERTAIN STATE LAWS DO NOT ALLOW LIMITATIONS ON IMPLIED WARRANTIES.
IF THESE LAWS APPLY TO YOU, SOME OR ALL OF THE ABOVE DISCLAIMERS,
EXCLUSIONS, OR LIMITATIONS MAY NOT APPLY TO YOU, AND YOU MIGHT HAVE
Again the the CAPITAL LETTERS.
YOU AGREE THAT UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHALL YOU BE ENTITLED TO
INJUNCTIVE RELIEF WITH REGARD TO THE USE OR ARCHIVING OF ANY PAPER
SUBMITTED TO THE SITE.
Who would want to agree to that? In other words, if Turnitin publishes your daughter's embarrassing ninth grade essay, you can't get an injunction to stop them. After all, you and your daughter no longer own her paper; Turnitin does.
You agree to indemnify, defend and hold harmless, iParadigms, its
affiliates, officers, directors, employees, agents and licensors, from
any claims, losses, damages, deficiencies, liabilities, costs and
expenses (including attorneys' fees and costs) arising from Your (a)
use of the Site or the Services, (b) violation of any third party's
rights, or (c) breach of this User Agreement. For clarity, this
indemnification applies both to direct claims between You and
iParadigms and third-party claims. You agree to cooperate as reasonably
required in the defense of any claim. iParadigms reserves the right, at
its own expense, to assume the exclusive defense and control of any
matter otherwise subject to indemnification under this section and, in
any event, You agree not to settle any such matter without the prior
written consent of iParadigms. Your obligation to defend and indemnify
iParadigms survives the termination of this User Agreement and Your use
of the Site.
Since commencing litigation against Turnitin is a violation of the terms of the agreement, what this clause says if that if you sue Turnitin, you have to pay not only your legal fees but theirs too, regardless of whether you win the case or not.
External Hyperlinks from the Site
The Site contains hyperlinks to third party Web sites. External
hyperlinks to or from the Site do not constitute iParadigms'
endorsement of, affiliation with, or recommendation of any third party
or its Web site, products, resources or other information. iParadigms
is not responsible for any software, data or other information
available from any third party Web site. You are solely responsible for
complying with all terms and conditions of use for the third party
sites. You acknowledge that iParadigms shall have no liability for any
damage or loss arising from Your access to, use of or reliance on any
third party Web site, software, data, or other information.
Once again, not only will Turnitin not stand behind its own product, it also won't stand behind any of the other sites it links to. Click at your own risk and don't come crying to us just because the link appeared on our site. That's Turnitin's position in a nutshell: no matter what happens, we're not responsible. Period.
Modification of these terms and conditions
iParadigms, LLC reserves the right to change the terms, conditions, and notices under which the Site is offered.
How wonderful. So tomorrow they can require all Turnitin users to pay $50 to iParadigms. And they won't have to notify the school districts that employ Turnitin; they certainly didn't provide such notification to my kids' district when they tried to sneak the new user agreement by the school and the parents. As a philosophical question, one might well ask what good is any written agreement if one party can unilaterally modify it at will without even giving notice to the people who have entered into the agreement?
This User Agreement is governed by the laws of the State of
California, U.S.A. You hereby consent to the exclusive jurisdiction and
venue of state and federal courts in Alameda County, California,
U.S.A., in all disputes arising out of or relating to the use of the
Site or the Services. You agree not to use the Site in any jurisdiction
that does not give effect to all provisions of these terms and
conditions, including without limitation this paragraph.
So if you are in a jurisdiction that imposes statutory or implied warranties, for example, you're not allowed to use the site? Gee, that's gonna cut into Turnitin's customer pool considerably.
You agree that no joint venture, partnership, employment or agency
relationship exists between You and iParadigms, LLC as a result of this
User Agreement or use of the Site or the Services.
iParadigms' performance of this User Agreement is subject to
existing laws and legal process, and nothing contained in this User
Agreement is in derogation of iParadigms' right to comply with law
enforcement requests or requirements relating to Your use of the Site
or the Services or information provided to or gathered by iParadigms'
with respect to such use.
So much for privacy. If a police department wants to get a hold of the poem little Johnny wrote in 9th grade (because he might be a Bad Kid with Violent Tendencies), Turnitin will just give it to them. Warrants? Subpoenas? We don't need no stinkin' warrants or subpoenas. All that's necessary is a "request" from law enforcement. After all, contesting warrants and subpoenas costs money, and Turnitin certainly wouldn't want to spend a dime protecting its users' privacy.
You agree that any claim or cause of action arising out of or
related to the Site or the Services must be commenced within one (1)
year after the cause of action arose. Otherwise, such claim or cause of
action is barred forever.
Because the Sovereign Republic of Turnitin can impose its own statutes of limitations, state law be damned.
If any part of this User Agreement is determined to be invalid or
unenforceable pursuant to applicable law including, but not limited to,
the warranty disclaimers and liability limitations set forth above,
then the invalid or unenforceable provision will be deemed superseded
by a valid, enforceable provision that most closely matches the intent
of the original provision; the remainder of the User Agreement shall
continue in effect.
If You are an institution, the terms of the User Agreement are in
addition to those contained in any written registration agreement You
may have with iParadigms, LLC (each, a "Registration Agreement"). In
the event of a conflict between this User Agreement and any such
separate Registration Agreement, the terms of the Registration
Agreement shall govern. Except in the event that You have entered into
a Registration Agreement with iParadigms, this User Agreement
constitutes the entire agreement between the user and iParadigms' with
respect to usage of the Site and the Services and it supersedes all
prior communications and proposals, whether electronic, oral, or
written, between the user and iParadigms' with respect to usage of the
Site or the Services. A printed version of this User Agreement and of
any notice given in electronic form shall be admissible in judicial or
administrative proceedings based upon or relating to the User agreement
to the same extent and subject to the same conditions as other business
documents and records originally generated and maintained in printed
Whew. Let's review. If you or your kid uses Turnitin:
1. They own everything you submit through them.
2. They can use it in any way they see fit.
3. You can't bring suit against them.
4. And if you do, you'll have to pay their attorney's fees.
5. Turnitin may give the school inaccurate reports about you without consequence.
6. Turnitin will turn over any information it has about you to law enforcement if they ask nicely.
[Other posts about Turnitin are available here and here and here.]
Last April, I posted an entry about Turnitin.com, the private for-profit company whose plagiarism detection service is founded on the illegal expropriation of student work product. At the time, I intended to follow up with further entries, but I never did.
In my own community, however, the Turnitin issue has come to the fore again. Late last year, the company attempted to induce high school students--minors, mostly--to assent to a new and draconian user agreement by clicking through a document that appeared when one logged in to Turnitin. Turnitin attempted to induce students to agree to its terms without even notifying the school district or the parents of children in the school. This step caused the school to temporarily suspend the service.
Now, however, the school has sent home a form for parents to sign authorizing their children to click through and assent to the Turnitin contract. Unfortunately, the school did not tell parents anything about the content of the agreement they were supposed to authorize their children to assent to.
Earlier in my discussions with the school, I prepared an annotated bibliography of materials related to Turnitin. Because I believe these materials should be made public, I am reproducing it here on Framed so that it can serve as a public resource to people seeking to educate themselves about Turnitin's questionable practices. I will add in hyperlinks later.
Annotated Bibliography of Materials Relating to Turnitin.com
This is a brief article written by a Beverly Hills High School
student. It makes the legally significant (though morally dubious)
argument that Turnitin does, in fact, limit the marketability of papers
submitted to it, since such papers could not then be as readily sold to
other students. Since one of the factors to consider when determining
fair use is whether the use impairs and market value of the work in
question, this argument is highly relevant to any fair use analysis.
This blog entry begins with an essay written in response to the
Grand Valley State University position paper by a Turnitin.com
employee. It presents the company’s position on how Turnitin can be a
valuable tool for teachers. What follows, however, are a number of
reader comments taking Bruton to task for, among other things, failing
to address copyright and other legal and moral issues.
This post to a teaching discussion list is an account of a test of
Turnitin’s performance. Carbone concludes that “in these tests, the
service failed at its fundamental promise, which is to find exact or
similar matches to documents in its database.”
“CCCC-IP Caucus Recommendations Regarding Academic Integrity and the Use of Plagiarism Detection Tools.” The Intellectual Property Caucus of the
Conference on College Composition and Communication. 19 Sept. 2006.
This caucus, which represents some 6,000 higher education
instructors, is critical of plagiarism detection services such as
Turnitin on pedagogic grounds. Its conclusions are as follows:
1. The use of PDSs [plagiarism detection services] shifts an
instructor’s role from supporting students and coaching them when they
make mistakes, to policing writing and enacting punishments which may
exceed the individual instructors’ best judgment. This shift
compromises the relationship between teachers and students.
2. PDSs foster an artificial view of originality and the role of
imitation and borrowing in writing. Instructors need to respond to the
changing values and definitions of writing that the Internet generation
brings to the classroom.
3. PDSs enforce a narrow construction of writing as property and do
not help students understand the more complex relationships among
authorship, ownership, sources, and property and the ways in which they
vary according to factors such as context, audience expectations,
genre, and purpose. Distinctions between original and reproduced texts
are always made within specific contexts.
This is one of the earliest articles to raise concerns about
Turnitin. It points out that the service “fails to properly
differentiate between quoted materials and original writing.” Denhart
is concerned that the inclusion of correctly attributed quotations can
cause a student paper to be labeled as plagiarized. In addition,
Turnitin’s competitors are discussed and evaluated.
This is an excellent, if dated, overview of the legal issues under
copyright and FERPA that are raised by Turnitin’s retention of student
papers. Foster discusses UC Berkeley’s decision not to use Turnitin
because of copyright concerns:
Under copyright law, the fair-use exception is easier to justify if
freely distributed copies of a document are not expected to threaten
its commercial value. Dan L. Burk, who is a professor at the University
of Minnesota Law School who specializes in intellectual property, says
of [Turnitin’s] fair-use defense: “That’s baloney.” As many as three
factors undermine the argument, the professor says: The students’
papers are completely copied. They are often creative works, as opposed
to compilations of scientific facts. And they are being submitted to a
commercial enterprise, not an educational institution. “To run a
database, you’ve got to make a copy, and if the student hasn’t
authorized that, then that’s potentially an infringing copy,” says Mr.
Concerning FERPA, Foster quotes
. . . LeRoy S. Hooker, director of the U.S. Department of
Education’s Family Policy Compliance Office, [who] says that there is
no exception to the act that would permit colleges to turn over student
papers to an outside vendor without students’ written permission. “You
can hire a vendor to check for plagiarism,” he says. “But once they do
that, they can’t then keep that personally identifiable document and
use it for any other purpose.”
Foster also mentions two other plagiarism-detection services,
Copycatch and Eve2, which do not illegally retain copies of student
Glod, Maria. “Students Rebel Against Database Designed to Thwart Plagiarists.” Washington Post 22 Sept. 2006. <www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/21/AR2006092101800.html>.
This article reports that a student rights committee at McLean High
School has objected to Turnitin. It then proceeds to survey the
Turnitin controversy, citing three professors from Grand Valley State
University in Michigan who claim that “Turnitin makes questionable use
of student intellectual property.” Glod also notes that
the intellectual property caucus of the Conference on College
Composition and Communication, an organization of 6,000 college-level
educators, is debating whether such services “undermined students’
authority over the uses of their own writing” and make them feel
“guilty until proven innocent,” according to a draft position statement.
This is an open letter that was circulated on the campus of Grand
Valley State University in Michigan by three writing instructors
there. It makes three arguments against Turnitin: “Turnitin discourages
good pedagogical practices concerning writing”; “Turnitin can be
ineffective for detecting plagiarism”; and “Turnitin makes questionable
use of student intellectual property.”
The author argues that recent concerns about plagiarism are
overblown and are, in fact, exacerbated by Turnitin. She objects to
seeing student work “commodified” and commercialized. She points out
that the widespread use of Turnitin may erode the fair use doctrine,
presumably because writers will be ever more reluctant to use portions
of other writers’ works for fear of being flagged by Turnitin—even
though such use may be perfectly legal.
Maruca, Lisa. “The Plagiarism Panic: Digital Policing in the New Intellectual Property Regime.” Presented at the ARHB Copyright Research Network, 2004 Conference on new Directions in Copyright. 30 June 2004. <www.copyright.bbk.ac.uk/contents/publications/conferences/2004/lmaruca.pdf>.
The author argues that popular alarm over plagiarism is not
warranted by the facts and, in fact, amounts to a “moral panic.” “The
sense of threat engendered by the purported ‘plagiarism plague’ has
reached a point . . . that teachers and administrators are desperate
for a cure. There is a certain ironic aptness in the fact that, as
anxious for a ‘quick fix’ as they accuse their students of being, they
are turning to a technological solution.” Citing 17 U.S.C. §§ 102, 401
and 405, she also points out that “[a]ny work created in the USA after
1 Mar 1989 is automatically protected by copyright, even if there is no
copyright notice attached to the work.”
Turnitin claims they are legally within fair use exemptions. . . .
Nevertheless, the irony is obvious: a service dedicated to ferreting
out intellectual property violations in the “ethical” realm of
plagiarism, takes what is at least a liberal interpretation, if not
actual and questionable liberties, when it comes to the legal realm of
copyright. Students, who gain nothing financially (at least directly)
from their work, are forced to become more and more vigilant about
their usage of source materials—which is often, in terms of copyright,
well within fair use—are at the same time coerced into relinquishing
their rights to someone who does benefit economically from
their completed texts, plagiarized or not. “Coerced” may seem a strong
word. After students and some faculty at several universities protested
this inequity, Turnitin did begin encouraging instructors to get
students’ permission to submit their work. The extent to which such
“permissions” can [be] said to be freely given within the inherent
power inequities of the classroom is questionable, however.
Maruca also mentions concerns about FERPA violations inherent in the
Turnitin system. She argues that the policing of students through
Turnitin actually “buttress[es] a climate in which all writing is
perceived of as marketable information.”
This is a memo by Cornell University’s legal counsel advising the
college administration in which the author concludes that under
copyright law, “it would be problematic for faculty members to copy
student papers and submit them to Turnitin.com without student
Morgan, M.C. “Turnitin One Year After.” Morgan’s Log. 17 Sept. 2006. <biro.bemidjistate.edu/blog/?p=162>.
In this blog entry by an English professor at Bemidji State
University, the author concludes that Bemidji “is still sponsoring and
supporting turnitin here at BSU, and I’m still embarrassed that they
are. It has become clear over the last year that writing teachers,
comp/rhet specialists, and those who understand writing in academia and
learning, do not use turnitin. That could be a signal to others.”
“Presumption of Guilt?” Chronicle of Higher Education, 9 Mar. 2006. <http://chronicle.com/wiredcampus/article/1081/presumption-of-guilt>.
This is a brief news item about Mount Saint Vincent University has
banned the use of Turnitin because it treats students as guilty of
plagiarism until proven innocent. Following the article are a number of
“Punditry: Turn This In.” Plagiarism Today: A Site about Plagiarism, Content Theft and Copyright Issues Online. 20 Mar. 2006. <www.plagiarismtoday.com/?p=195>.
This article discusses Turnitin’s practice of caching websites and in light of the Blake Field v. Google
decision. The author concludes that Turnitin should offer students and webmasters an opt-out feature.
Rafferty, Heath. “Anti-Anti-Plagiarism.” Killing Mind. 22 July 2004. <heath.hrsforworks.net/archives/000027.html>.
This blog entry, by an Australian graduate student, cites a legal
opinion commissioned by Turnitin, which states that “if would be wise
to leave students . . . with an ability to withhold their consent [to
having their papers submitted to Turnitin], leaving open the question
of how the subscriber should deal with the consequences of an
individual student refusing to allow his or her paper to be submitted
to the service.” Rafferty goes on to cite other objections to
Turnitin. He is critical of the fact that students do not have a
realistic choice not to turn over their papers to a for-profit American
company. He contends that Turnitin fosters a
guilty-until-proven-innocent ethos. He points out that there is nothing
to stop Turnitin from turning over his paper to any other company or
organization. He contends that Turnitin will discourage teachers from
coming up with new assignments, which will lead to stale pedagogy. He
complains about the inconvenience of using the system. He notes that
reusing one’s own work, which is not plagiarism, would still be flagged
as plagiarism by Turnitin. He points out that there are many ways one
can plagiarize and not be caught by Turnitin, and that the service is
Read, Brock. “The Pros and Cons of Turnitin.” Chronicle of Higher Education, 19 Sept. 2006 <chronicle.com.wiredcampus/index/php?id=1578>.
Article reporting on the controversy over the use of Turnitin at Grand Valley State.
The author, a graduate student at Dalhousie University, writes an
open letter to the school administration protesting the school’s use of
Turnitin. He points out that given that “[o]ver 200 [computer] security
breaches have been reported by organizations more reputable than
Tutnitin. . . . What happens when Turnitin is next?” Smit also points
out that the Turnitin system is easy to game, and that as people become
more attuned to its nuances, they will quickly learn how to defeat
it. He proposes that students be allowed to be excused from the
requirement of submitting their paper through Turnitin if they so
request. He also proposes that teachers submit only those papers about
which there is a serious question of plagiarism. He suggests that
Dalhousie modify its contract with Turnitin so that papers are archived
for only three weeks.
This blog entry takes issue with Turnitin’s claim that it does not
archive student papers, but only “fingerprints” of papers. Through his
use of the Turnitin system, Smits demonstrates that “full-text, exact
copies are available on the [Turnitin] system, and these copies are
used and displayed long after the student is finished a given course.”
This post details Smit’s attempts to get Turnitin to delete his
website from their archive. Turnitin claims that materials can be
removed from its database upon request, but Smits found that there was
no clear process in place to handle such requests, and that Turnitin
was slow and unresponsive to such requests.
Smit, Mike. Turnitin.com—Removing Content from their Database. Mikesmit.com. ND. <http://www.mikesmit.com/page.php?id=24>.
This is a continuation of the March 19 post described above.
This article, from a discussion board devoted to discussions of
technological issues, briefly notes that Halifax University has banned
the use of Turnitin, due to concerns about privacy, copyright and the
ethics of requiring students to contribute to a for-profit database. A
lively discussion by readers of the article follows.
This editorial, written by a law student and published in the Texas
Tech student newspaper, is critical of Turnitin’s claims that it does
not violate copyright law because it only retains a “digital footprint”
of student papers. “They claim this does not violate copyright law
citing 17 USC §102(b). What their legal document will not tell you is
that while 102(b) withholds protection from abstract concepts, it does
not withhold protection from digital copies of original works in their
entirety.” Terry goes on to point out that Turnitin
refuse[s] to take responsibility for any monetary damages resulting
from their program (for example, the cost you may incur when you are
forced to defend yourself against false plagiarism charges). They also
stipulate any dispute regarding copyright infringement must be settled
through arbitration in Alameda County, California. Forget suing them
for violating your intellectual property rights, use of the service
forfeits that option.
“Turnitin.com, a Pedagic Placebo for Plagiarism.” Bedford/St. Martin’s TechNotes. 13 June 2001. <http://www.bedfordstmartins.com/technotes/techtiparchive/ ttip060501.htm>.
This is a good description of Turnitin and the pedagogic and ethical
arguments against it. The author claims that Turnitin “is not about
teaching, it’s about catching. . . . It assumes the worst about
students and the worst about teachers. . . . Much of what Turnin.com
proposes to detect can be avoided by careful assignment planning and
teaching . . . by paying attention early on to students and the work
they do.” Perhaps the most devastating critique of Turnitin is
contained in this passage:
I'm troubled by this co-option of student writing on human subject
grounds. Most universities have protocols for getting permission to
study humans, whether medically, chemically, or socially (i.e.
interviewing, surveying, ethnographies and so on). Under these
protocols, researchers must submit plans for how they will collect and
use student works, and must work out permission to do so. As a teacher
and textbook author -- and now as someone who works for a publisher --
I would never use students work in a book, at a conference, or in any
professional capacity without students' written permission, which
permission must be freely given and not coerced as a condition of the
With Turnitin.com, students' work is captured and held without their
permission. This goes against the grain of most writing pedagogy, which
premises that students are 'authors' and 'authorities' and owners of
their own work (coincidentally, the assumption used to establish
copyright). It also goes against the grain of one's right to their
intellectual property that Turnitin.com, in its pursuit of plagiarists,
seeks to uphold. So using Turnitin.com presents students with a double
If one uses Turnitin.com, they say to students something like this:
Plagiarism is wrong because it's the theft of another person's
intellectual property. Yet we don't trust you to follow that ethos, so
we're going to violate it ourselves to save you from your own
perfidity. We're going to take your property--your writing--and check
it here, in this place that will keep a copy of your work whether you
give permission for this or not. Sorry, it won't be just your property
anymore, it will also belong to Turnitin.com's database.
Wachsmuth, David. “Rosenfeld-1, McGill-0: Ad Hoc Panel Rules to Grade Arts Student’s Material Following Turnitin.com Saga.” The McGill Daily, 10 Jan. 2004. <http://www.mcgilldaily.com/view.php?aid=2166>.
Good article about the student from McGill (Canada’s premiere
university) who refused to use Turnitin.com and received a zero grade
for doing so. The school reversed itself and decided to grade the
student’s papers. McGill students are no longer required to submit
papers to Turnitin.
There is a scene in Star Trek: First Contact in which Captain Picard explains why, in the face of impossible odds, he feels compelled to fight the Borg (the soulless baddies who want to assimilate all other species and are always saying that resistance is futile):
They invade our space, and we fall back. They assimilate entire worlds, and we fall back. Not again. The line must be drawn HERE. This far, NO farther.
Last fall, at the end of a meeting with the superintendent and the principal of the school my sons attend, the principal asked me what bothered me personally so much about Turnitin. I didn't want to seem like a Trek geek then, so I didn't repeat Picard's lines, but they did occur to me.
I go to a bank and can't cash a check unless I am thumbprinted. I drive through an intersection and my car is photographed. I shop for groceries and can't get the best price unless I contribute a record of my purchase to the store's customer database. I make a call and the record is turned over to the government by my phone company. I sign up for utility service and have to give my social security number. I visit the doctor and am told that my medical records may be produced to law enforcement agencies upon request. I check out a book from the library knowing full well that the PATRIOT Act may require the librarian to produce my book-borrowing records to the NSA or the FBI without notice to me. I go to buy a product with cash and am told by the store that unless I give them my name, address and phone number I won't be permitted to return it, even if it is defective.
At times I feel like some crazy old man who carries around thick incomprehensible manuscripts in dirty shopping bags and rants to everyone he meets about how Big Government and Big Business are listening in on his thoughts through implants in his teeth. Still, at some point, people have to stand up and say, 'This far, NO farther!"
Perhaps, too, I've got the poppa bear instinct: I will abide insults to my dignity, invasions of my privacy and the sale of my medical and financial records with gritted teeth--but try doing that to my kids and I get mean. And that's exactly what happened. My high school sophomore sons were told they had to use Turnitin and to acquiesce in Turnitin's theft of their intellectual property and intrusion upon their privacy. That kind of thing riles me up.
Turnitin is a service that purports to help schools and teachers detect student plagiarism. Schools which contract with Turnitin require their students to submit their written work through Turnitin, which then compares it against previously submitted student work and other sources. The company's chief asset is its database of previously-submitted student papers, intellectual property it has stolen from students in collaboration with participating school districts, which extort "contributions" to Turnitin's database through the treat of lowered or withheld grades.
Turnitin's business practices are illegal, immoral, and premised on dubious pedagogy.
This is the first in a series of posts about this matter. In subsequent posts, I will explain and document what's wrong with Turnitin's practices in detail.