The Ultimate Anti-Plagiarism Database

LexisNexis, the creator of one of the world’s largest legal, news and business information databases, and iParadigms, the company behind turnitin.com, one of the major academic anti-plagiarism tools, are teaming up to create what amounts to the ultimate anti-plagiarism tool.

The database, which is called LexisNexis Copyguard, is be based upon LexisNexis’ library of 6.1 billion documents and five years of Web archives. It is designed to allow teachers, or anyone else who wants to check the authenticity of a piece, to search the entire text of the work using iParadigms’ algorithms to identify suspect passages.

According to the press release, such searches take only a few minutes, despite the large volume of works being searched and the complexity of said search, and will generate a custom “originality report” documenting any potential incidents of plagiarism.

Though it sounds like a great tool, especially for teachers who want one definitive source to go to when checking a paper for plagiarism, there are several problems in paradise.

First, many wonder about the various copyright issues surrounding this tool. In an age where the non-profit Internet archive is coming under fire for storing copies of Web sites, it’s easy to see why there’s worry about a corporation doing the same thing for a product they intend to sell, especially considering that, to my knowledge, there’s no “opt out” measure available. This clearly violates fair use and could land LexisNexis in court.

Also, the effectiveness of the tool is somewhat suspect. With Google already indexing most of what LexisNexis does and offering very powerful search tools of its own for free, it’ll have to be seen if Copyguard is good enough to justify its price tag. I’m looking forward to the first reviews of the product to find out if it does live up to expectations.

Finally, like most plagiarism products, it’s targeted at academics want to catch plagiarized papers. It offers little for content creators wanting to stop plagiarism of their own work. Though the tool can be used in reverse, or so I’m forced to assume, LexisNexis is, generally speaking, very costly and it’s unlikely the tool would be worth the price to anyone but the wealthiest clients (colleges, corporations, etc.).

In the end, the best thing about this database is that it will almost certainly result in better enforcement of plagiarism rules in schools. This could have the effect of dissuading plagiarism, stopping it early and thus preventing people from doing it away from the classroom and on their Web sites.

Finally, it also offers some protection of your site. Assuming you don’t mind your work being in the database, it helps to ensure that your site is being searched for every incident of suspected plagiarism in a school or corporation. This means you have an added layer of protection without you having to lift a finger.

Still, even with such much potential for good, there are serious questions that only time will be able to answer. I will definitely be following this story as it develops and offer updates as needed.

[tags]Plagiarism, LexisNexis, iParadigms, Copyguard[/tags]

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