Friday, May 16, 2008

It's only piracy if YOU make the copies

A federal judge has ruled that a commercial plagiarism-detection tool popular among professors does not violate the copyrights of students, even though it stores digital copies of their essays in the database that the company uses to check works for academic dishonesty. The decision has implications for other digital services, such as Google's effort to scan books in major libraries and add them to its index for search purposes.

The lawyer for the students who sued the company said he plans to appeal.

Judge Claude M. Hilton, of the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., in March found that scanning the student papers for the purpose of detecting plagiarism is a "highly transformative" use that falls under the fair-use provision of copyright law. He ruled that the company "makes no use of any work's particular expressive or creative content beyond the limited use of comparison with other works," and that the new use "provides a substantial public benefit."

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