Plagiarism is OK if you change the name of the author to an alias.
I learned this from UMUC's use of Turnitin.com, which sells an anti-plagiarism service. Copying a work (in whole or part) without proper citation is OK if you are submitting it to Turnitin.com, which stores the whole work in its database without proper citation (it's pointed back to the teacher, not the author), when it's accessed.
Turnitin.com takes a submitted paper, matches words to other papers stored in its database, and returns a percentage match for varying sources. Here's their sample image showing matches to a public internet site http://www.turnitin.com/static/images/sample_report.gif. Then the submitted paper is added to their database.
"Turnitin may give one instructor the name and e-mail address of another instructor, and the paper ID# of the paper with matching material, but only the original instructor will be able to link that paper ID# to the student's personal information." (Legal Document, 2004)
I also learn that it's ok to profit from other people's work, provided I don't give out the author's names, nor provide the entire work all at once. It's also useful if I prevent the authors from seeing if I have used their work by limiting access to my database to expensive licenses only available to certain individuals and universities. Note that authors can't request the removal of their work from my database, because I'm not necessarily storing their name (potentially just an alias, or a pointer back to the person that gave it to me), so I wouldn't be able to pick out what was theirs. Oh, and I almost forgot, I should also have 3 law firms at my disposal to prevent random complaints. I should also talk about by good intentions a lot and tell people how my profiting from other people's work without their permission is a good thing.
I find it amusing that a company that claims to solve the problem of plagiarism stores people's papers, makes a profit from plagiarizing works, and universities give them money to do it. Note that Turnitin.com doesn't search for-pay sources, like New York Times, and our library databases (UMUC, 2004). I guess those organizations can afford lawyers to sue companies using their copyrighted works?
I also see UMUC has a "temporary" agreement to the storage of my writing. It states "that the papers will be stored only temporarily and 'solely for the purpose of using such papers as source material to prevent plagiarism of such papers.'" (UMUC, 2004) No mention of how long temporary is (for the duration of their contract). How long is that? Is my paper available to other customers of Turnitin.com? Is anyone actually verifying that these people delete my paper after the specified time? Will UMUC be able to check and see if the agreement to delete papers was met, if they don't have an account anymore when the contract expires? Also note that I have no way of checking what they have stored of my work unless I have an account which means someone has to give them money.
In the meantime, Turnitin.com is welcome to pay me for use of my work in their commercial database. For each access of my work as a potential match, I'd also like reimbursement. They keep a copy of my work and use it to generate revenue based on comparisons to other works. Then they don't give me credit for my work (isn't that improper citation, nicely required by FERPA?), but rather point to my instructor.
If a school is going to try to teach that plagiarism is bad, shouldn't it reconsider a policy that encourages it? I don't object to having my work checked for plagiarism. I think such tools are good. I object to having someone profiting from my work (and many others) without explicit permission, and that my university pays for the privilege of giving my work away.
Here are the original super-old, mostly broken links:
Plagiarism and Turnitin.com FAQ. (2004). Retrieved on August 10, 2004 from http://www.umuc.edu/library/turnitin.html
Legal Document. (2004). Retrieved on August 11, 2004 from http://www.turnitin.com/static/legal/legal_document.html
This essay was written by and belongs to Theresa L. Ford. August 12, 2004. Please note that I don't think plagiarism is OK at all. If I did, I wouldn't have written this essay, would I?