3 Count: Strange Days

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1: Students Reach Settlement in Turnitin Suit

First off today, iParadigms, the makers of the academic plagiarism checking service Turnitin, have settled their lawsuit with a group of Virginia high school students. The group had sued iParadigms for copyright infringement claiming that their continued use of their submitted papers, which are stored in Turnitin’s database for future matching, constituted an infringement.

However, the district court sided with iParadigms, citing both fair use and contractual issues, namely that the students had agreed to the retention of their papers, albeit that they were under 18 at the time and were under the threat of failure in their class. The appeals court agreed on the fair use issue but sent back to the lower court a complaint by iParadigms that one of the students had gained access to the system illegally.

This settlement puts that issue to rest and forbids either side from taking any further legal action, including the anticipated Supreme Court challenge. However, at least one student involved doesn’t seem to be willing to let this go and is looking for students who had their paper placed into the system without their permission.

Still, for now, this one is over.

2: Oprah faces $1 trillon lawsuit

Next up, in a story that was practically made for CopyrightFail, author Damon Lloyd Goffe has sued Oprah for $1.2 trillion (yes, with a “t”) accusing her of plagiarizing his book “A Tome of Poetry” in her Wen-published work “Pieces of my Soul”.

Goffe accuses Oprah of having sold some 650 million copies of the work at $20 a piece and is seeking profits plus interest on the works sold. Good thing Goffe isn’t seeking statutory damages as those would equal, if the maximum damages were awarded for each alleged copy, $97,500,000,000,000 or 97.5 trillion dollars.

It is worth noting that Goffe is filing the suit Pro Se, meaning he is representing himself in the matter. So it seems highly unlikely this suit will go anywhere. This is especially true considering Goffee does not appear to have registered his book with the Copyright Office, a requirement for jurisdiction in a Federal court.

3: The Best Fair-Use Controversy Ever?

Finally today, because it is Friday, I bring to you one of the most interesting fair use debates in a long time.

The pro-marijuana activist organization NORML is being accused of copyright infringement by now-college professor Lisa Jack, who took a series of photos of now-President Barack Obama when he was a freshman in college. NORML took a photo of Obama smoking a tobacco cigarette and edited the photo to replace a marijuana one and used it in a poster with the slogan “Yes We Cannabis”.

Jack is the one who is upset by the use of the image though NORML is claiming that this is a fair use. The case has not moved to a lawsuit phase but many seem to think it will head that way soon.


That’s it for the three count today, we’ll be back tomorrow with three more copyright links. If you have a link that you want to suggest a link for the column or have any proposals to make it better. Feel free to leave a comment or send me an email. I hope to hear from you.

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