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Will online term papers survive a copyright challenge?

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Is selling term papers online a violation of copyright laws?

In case you missed the story in today’s USA Today, a U.S. district judge in Illinois has ordered the owner of R2C2 Inc. a Web-based company in Carbondale, Illinois, to stop selling term papers unless he can prove he has permission from the papers’ authors. Getting that permission might be hard to do. This is sort of like administrators telling school publication advisers  they must get permission from all students before they can use their names in a print or online medium.

USA Today said the judge based his ruling on an earlier case where the provider was found liable in 2006 of copyright infringement after co-authors of an undergraduate research paper saw their work posted on three of the company’s websites and sued.

The judge’s ruling did not address whether it’s legal or ethical to sell or buy term papers, but it is the first time a court has penalized a seller for how he/she acquires the term papers. The law firm representing the plaintiffs is seeking compensation for its clients, which could possibly number in the tens of thousands. USA Today R2C2 firm’s business includes at least nine websites that offer 200,000-300,000 term papers. The owner has until mid February to show he has complied with the court’s order.

This might make an excellent story for school publications to investigate. The story could also delve into instances of plagiarism and ethics. The USA Today article pointed out R2C2 is “a small player” in the term-paper business, an indication  there are other companies who also might be violating copyright laws. What do you think? Is the company violating copyright guidelines?

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