Discuss The Legal And Ethical Implications Of Turnitin

Read Complete Research Material

Discuss the Legal and Ethical Implications of Turnitin

Discuss the Legal and Ethical Implications of Turnitin


As noted in Turnitin and Rhetoric, although the arguments against Turnitin are mostly logical fallacies, the issue of intellectual property does need to be addressed. (Talab, 2009) wrote, “Students have intellectual property rights to their writing that make problematic Turnitin's compilation of student texts. Claims of fair use by Turnitin put aside, teachers may want to consider their own opinions about requiring students to give away their work to be used by a third party, for-profit vendor”.

What sorts of intellectual property rights do students have? It isn't trademark, trade secret, or patent rights, so it must be copyright (see Info/Law for this breakdown). Most student papers do not have an "original" idea or way of framing a particular idea. Rather, they are collections of common knowledge that display the students' developing proficiency in presenting that common knowledge (Roig, 2009). Copyright in these cases is at best a technicality. However, infrequently as it may be, some students do write a paper that is worthy of being published, in fact, that gets published. And as students progress in their knowledge and writing ability, this possibility increases.

Assuming students have copyright protection, still, what have they given away? Their written work remains their property. If they wish to publish it, make money off it, or anything else, they still have that right. Thus, they are not giving it away, at least no more than academics who sign off their copyright to journals without receiving any compensation. Of course, some might argue that academics have "choice." Not really, that is, if they want to receive tenure and promotion. And in contrast to academics giving away their copyright, students still have theirs (Park, 2009). Unlike the journal-academic relationship, Turnitin's use of student work and the students' use of their work do not overlap or conflict.


Interestingly, the authors recommend that the university consider having Turnitin globally configured at GVSU so that students' papers are not stored in the database. Apparently, they see a difference between a "for-profit vendor" not respecting students' intellectual property rights and the university doing the same. Such a distinction is difficult for me to see. Perhaps, as a colleague of mine commented, it's a qualified recommendation. That is, if GVSU insists on using Turnitin, then it would be better to have student papers on GVSU servers. Still, if I felt that if I believed, as they wrote, "Turnitin discourages good pedagogical practices" and "can be ineffective for detecting plagiarism," I would find it difficult to make such a recommendation because storing student papers at GVSU, as opposed to storing them on Turnitin servers, would not change these assumed negative by-products of Turnitin.

Even so, the commercial distinction is not an important one for me. Although universities are technically non-profit organizatons, it is an illusion that they are non-commercial (McCabe, 2009). In New Jersey, the state provides about 20% of public university budgets ("New Jersey Colleges Brace for More Financial Blows", subscription ...
Related Ads