Economics and Business (Bachelors and Masters)

Update on the legal status of Turnitin

13 March 2018

Currently, there are no legal barriers proscribing the use of Turnitin plagiarism detection software.

Turnitin will not obtain ownership rights and is held to respect the intellectual property of the submitter. Furthermore, the Turnitin End User License Agreement does not apply to users from the UvA (and other universities).

This was the conclusion of the UvA and SURF following a legal reassessment of the current contract with Turnitin LLC, the service provider of Turnitin. The contract was concluded by SURF, as contract owner for the UVA and 17 other educational institutions.

Copyright

In recent weeks, attention was called to the user agreement that UvA users must accept when uploading their work onto Turnitin. Pursuant to that agreement, students were required to transfer the copyright to Turnitin LLC, previously known by the name iParadigms.

User agreement not applicable

After consultation between SURF and the UvA and an assessment of the current contracts, no legal objections to the use of Turnitin and iThenticate were identified. It was determined that:

  • The general user agreement (EULA) shown by Turnitin does not apply to UvA users. Instead of this user agreement, the contract with SURF is leading.
  • On the basis of the license agreement with SURF, Turnitin will not obtain ownership rights to the documents being uploaded.

In addition, Turnitin stated that it does not use the data and documents for purposes other than those for which the institution has concluded a license agreement, namely the detection of plagiarism.

In reply to questions from the House of Representatives, the Minister for Education, Culture and Science indicated that ‘the end user license agreement, as shown online to lecturers and students when working with Turnitin, does therefore not apply to institutions who make use of Turnitin via SURF’.

UvA students and staff will still be asked to agree to the user agreement, even though it does not apply. This cannot yet be altered in the current Turnitin software. This is currently under discussion, as the UvA and SURF both indicated that they found this to be undesirable. If this issue cannot be resolved, it could eventually give cause to investigate alternative software for the detection of plagiarism.

General Data Protection Regulation

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect on 25 May, after which the current Personal Data Protection Act (Wbp) will no longer apply. In order to meet the requirements of the GDPR, Turnitin will have to conclude a new processing agreement with the UvA. SURF is facilitating this process and is currently discussing the conditions of this processing agreement with Turnitin. The UvA will ensure timely conclusion of a processing agreement that complies with the new and stricter European laws and regulations.

Plagiarism detection

Academic integrity is integral to academic teaching and research. Besides stressing its importance in education by, for example, teaching students to properly cite material, it is crucial to be able to inspect for cases of plagiarism. The large number of students enrolled in various programmes makes plagiarism detection software essential. The use of such plagiarism detection software forms part of the Regulations Governing Fraud and Plagiarism and the Teaching and Examination Regulations.

Published by  University of Amsterdam