Turn It In

Why I do not support TurnItIn

There have been some articles recently about a service called TurnItIn which is marketed at Universities and aimed at cutting down on unattributed copyright violations. Here at Radioactive Networks we are actively working against the TurnItIn service wherever we can. This page will describe some of the reasons.

Copyright Ownership

On their pages, TurnItIn talk a lot about not copying work without the permission of the Author. They give very little acknowledgement that they do not own the copyright on the documents that they have indexed on the Internet.

I love to post to mailing lists. I also run my own WWW site for my business and contribute articles to magazines. I maintain the copyright on all these items. I have given permission for people to come to my WWW site to have a look at these pages by the fact that they are publicly available. But I have not given express permission for companies to come to my WWW site to store a copy of the site in their database.

I know google and other search engines do this. I have no problem with them, as in general they are not charging their users for access to my work, and are not charging their clients to compare other documents against my work. TurnItIn did not ask me if they could index my WWW site, they just did it.

The only way I found out was through examining the logs. Sure, as soon as I found it, I put a specific ROBOTS.TXT rule to stop them accessing my WWW site, and they have removed all the pages they stored once I sent them a DMCA ‘Cease and Desist’ letter – but I should not have to do that. If they want to store documentation that I have written, then they need to ack my express permission.

And it is not as if I do not claim copyright on my pages. EVERY page on my site has a META tag listing copyright, as well as a message at the bottom of each page listing ‘Copyright’, the circled ‘C’ and the date of the copyright – as well as my email address. On every page.

The only time I have ever heard from them was when I requested they remove the stored files, which they say that they did. Why should I have to search their database to know that they have stolen my work?

My Other Copyright Works

Protecting my own WWW site is easy. What about protecting all the posts I have made in the past to mailing lists, that are now on WWW pages? What about the pages that are mirroring (with my permission) my thesis? What about the articles I have written for magazines where I have retained all electronic rights?

A quick search of Google.com revealed at least 500 different pages that are likely to contain references to me – and that was just searching on my Ham Radio call-sign, and not my name. Once you include my name the number is much higher. How do I protect all these pages from someone who is copying them with no regard to my copyright?

Ah, but they are in the public domain I hear you say. You would be wrong. The only way for a work to enter the public domain is for it to loose all copyright protection – and as an Author I cannot renounce my copyright claim. I can offer an unlimited licence to the work for free, or assign it to another party, but I cannot place it in the public domain. The only way for it to enter the public domain is for me to die, and to be dead for 50 years [Since I am an Australian citizen].

Therefore TurnItIn cannot claim that my postings are in the public domain. I retain the copyright. What about Webzines? A compilation copyright is owned by the author, and he may have no objection to the work being archived by TurnItIn. But does that author have any right to allow TurnItIn to archive any work that I have produced? I dont think so.

Where Does This Leave TurnItIn?

So where does this leave TurnItIn. They are in an interesting legal situation since they are not only storing copies of works without permission, they are then using these works to produce an income. That would seem to be a violation of the copyright law.

I have two solutions for that. DMCA

Just like the record companies are doing with poor Uni students, us poor authors can fight back. All we need to do is search for any of our works on Google, and then send a DMCA ‘Cease and Desist’ to TurnItIn

Alternately, it may be possible to get TurnItIn to do the work for you. All you would need to do woule be to provide enough information to them to identify documents that you have copright over (Such as Name, Possible WWW sites, Possible Subjects, Possible Email Addresses) and then have them removed from their archive


As an author I am legally entitled to royalties for commercial exploitation of my works. Since TurnItIn are exploiting my work, I am entitled to royalties from them. Since I am not generating much content I believe that I am entitled to one cent per year royalty.

The power with this is that when enough people claim this royalty there will be a huge amount of paper work generated. This claim can also be for past use of works so there is no way for them to get out of paying by just deleting your content from their databases.

With many banks charging a dollar or more per cheque the financial implications are amazing. Also it should be remembered that for many organisations the cost of processing a single invoice may be $10-100 depending on if a purchase order needs to be raised.


As you can guess, I am not happy with the business model of TurnItIn. I am not for people breaking copyright, I am just for people given the choice to how their works are exploited.