01 July 2004

An antiplagiarism service is now marketing a database system in England that teachers can use to help spot plagiarism. The perceptive IPKAT wonders whether the database vendor has cleared permissions with the authors of the essays in its database. Given past experience with this kind of thing, the answer is probably "no." It seems curious, but most people who concentrate on plagiarism as an "evil" seem to neglect the act of copying itself; their concern is with misattribution. This is perhaps because modern pedagogy places too much emphasis on discovering that someone has said something previously and not enough on clear thinking supported by adequate data—and it appears to be even worse in England in general than in the legal profession over here.

Update: I was contacted privately by an administrator of the service, who indicates that the IPKat is referring to an academic program "that hosts a service which is from a US company," and that there has been a clearance from students submitting material to the program. I'm not entirely sure what that means, but it at least indicates awareness of the issue—which is more than I can say for many US "content aggregators." The only disquieting factor is that, although the extent is unspecified, some papers may come from one of those US-based content aggregators, which dumps us right back into the initial inquiry.