Abstract–In an attempt to stem a perceived rise in student plagiarism, educational institutions are increasingly turning to anti-plagiarism technologies. The use of these technological means to police student writings has been controversial, socially, politically, and legally. This article discusses the outcome of A.V. et al. v. iParadigms, to date the most important opinion on the legality of such technology’s use. The author examines the case in detail and presents arguments against the technology’s use, on the grounds that such use undermines educational policy by allowing the ethics of teachers to become a by-product of available technological means and by contributing to a detrimental framing of students as criminals.

 

Some especially tony colleges, such as Harvard, do not subscribe to Turnitin or other plagiarism-detection software services but prefer to preach to their students about the evils of plagiarism. These schools are naïve. [2]

 

Let’s be serious. [3]

 

One can hardly spend a nanosecond within the walls of academia without hearing tell of the epidemic of student plagiarism. [4] While empirical evidence of an epidemic may remain wanting, it is clear that a collective perception of crisis has taken hold in educational circles. [5] A noteworthy reaction to this perception of escalating plagiarism has been the academic embrace of commercial anti-plagiarism systems. This article is an examination of a recent ruling, A.V. et al. v. iParadigms, [6] stemming from this embrace. In section I, I sketch the context for that legal controversy that foregrounds its entangled technological and social aspects. [7] Sections II-V comprise a discussion of the case’s facts, and the case’s rulings in the area of contract law and copyright law. A speculative exploration of the possible pitfalls of too quickly embracing the plagiarism epidemic mood along with the technological fixes subsequently touted as its solution constitute sections VI and VII….

 

Michael G Bennett [1]