With the software package, teachers can check theses and the like for plagiarism. But as soon as students upload their thesis, they lose all control over their work, as a student from the University of Amsterdam discovered last month. The company behind Turnitin then gets a ‘non-exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, worldwide, irrevocable license’ to the document submitted, according to the terms and conditions of use.

According to Turnitin, those terms are needed to make integration into other software packages such as the Blackboard learning environment possible.

The university disagrees and thinks that Turnitin can also make do with more limited terms. A university spokesperson expects that the new terms will be settled before the implementation of the new legislation in May. “Failing that, we will have to go to an alternative, but we do not expect this to be necessary. Just recently, Turnitin was found to be the best plagiarism scanner. Faculty members also like to use it.”

'Nothing to fear'

Furthermore, Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven stated today that the students of most educational institutions have nothing to fear. According to her, there are eighteen institutions, including the University of Amsterdam, that have concluded a licence agreement for the programme via SURF, the ICT collaborative organisation for higher education.

Colleges and universities conclude a special agreement with SURF. The clause on waiving user rights would not constitute a part of it, even though it is displayed when students and teachers upload texts to Turnitin.