LawFuel – The Law Newswire – Boston Daily Free Press – A website designed to pinpoint plagiarism is in the midst of a legal battle after high school students filed a lawsuit last week alleging the company violated privacy laws by storing their work in its database without their permission.
Four high school students from Arizona and Virginia — who are unnamed in the suit because they are minors — filed a complaint in the Eastern District of Virginia Court against TurnItIn.com, a website high school teachers and college professors often use to check students’ papers for plagiarism by cross-referencing them with the site’s stored material.
The students claim the website violated their privacy rights by profiting off of their unpublished manuscripts without their consent. TurnItIn operates on a subscription basis, and it offers students’ work to be cross-referenced by the website’s clients upon request.
“A big, wealthy corporation is ripping off high school students, and I don’t like it,” said attorney Robert Vanderhye, who is representing the students for free.
According to the official complaint, the plaintiffs are accusing iParadigms, the website’s parent company, of having known “for several years that the archiving of student-authored unpublished manuscripts without the permission of the students is inappropriate.”
The complaint accuses iParadigms of violating federal privacy laws by retaining the manuscripts with students’ personal information and sending them to any of the company’s clients without students’ permission. Students can specifically request the website does not retain its work after it clears the plagiarism test, but the complaint alleges these requests have been ignored.
“If you read [iParadigm’s] own attorney’s opinion on its website, it says that the most legally sensitive aspect of this system is [the archiving],” Vanderhye said. “Those are code words for saying, ‘You’ve really got a problem here.'”