A federal judge’s decision this month (reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education) cleared plagiarism-detection tool Turnitin of charges that it violates student copyrights, even though it stores digital copies of their papers. An appeal will likely be filed.

The judge ruled that Turnitin’s use of the papers was “highly transformative,” thereby protected under fair-use laws. Transformative use was defined by the Supreme Court in 1994 by posing two questions:

  • Has the material you have taken from the original work been transformed by adding new expression or meaning?
  • Was value added to the original by creating new information, new aesthetics, new insights and understandings?

Does this bode well for Google Books? Is storing scanned copies of books in a search index a “highly transformative” use, and thereby protected by fair-use laws?

Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson is the CEO of RedLink and RedLink Network, a past-President of SSP, and the founder of the Scholarly Kitchen. He has worked as Publisher at AAAS/Science, CEO/Publisher of JBJS, Inc., a publishing executive at the Massachusetts Medical Society, Publishing Director of the New England Journal of Medicine, and Director of Medical Journals at the American Academy of Pediatrics. Opinions on social media or blogs are his own.