Four students who you might remember sued Turnitin last year for copyright infringement look to have lost their case.
"A United States District Court judge in Virginia has issued an order indicating that a motion for summary judgment filed by iParadigms seeking dismissal of plaintiffs' copyright infringement claims will be granted and thereby removed the action from his trial calendar. iParadigms is the creator of the Turnitin(R) Plagiarism Detection Service.
"This is a just and proper decision based on the law," says Andrew Smiley, a prominent New York trial attorney and frequent legal commentator.
The action in Virginia was instituted by four high school students who had allegedly submitted papers to Turnitin, which is licensed and approved by plaintiffs' school districts. The students claimed that their intellectual property rights were being violated because papers submitted to Turnitin are incorporated into the Turnitin database to prevent future collusion. iParadigms' motion for summary judgment sought dismissal of plaintiffs' claims based on both their agreement to a contract that precluded the relief they were seeking and based on the fair use defense under the Copyright Act. 17 U.S.C. Section 107."
The students had registered the copyrights in the papers they submitted Turnitin so you'd have thought de facto copying them to a database for commercial use would be clear copyright infringement. Looks like the judge decided contract law trumps copyright in this instance as the students through submission of the papers effectively signed an agreement not to take such legal action. The question of fair use for educational purposes also comes into the case but I'm not sure how Turnitin can really avail themselves of such a defence. In any case it will be very interesting to see the details of the judge's order.