Judge Claude M. Hilton, of the U. S. District Court in Alexandria, Va. [ED Va], found that scanning the student papers for the purpose of detecting plagiarism is a "highly transformative" use that falls under the fair-use provision of copyright law. He ruled that the company "makes no use of any work's particular expressive or creative content beyond the limited use of comparison with other works," and that the new use "provides a substantial public benefit."
The decision could bode well for Google. The company has been sued by groups representing publishers and authors who argue that the company is violating their copyrights by digitizing their books without express permission. Google contends that, because its digital copies are for the purpose of providing an index, it is essentially transforming the material.
See IPBiz post:
ED Va: not a rocket docket for copyright/turnitin?
One notes that Mike at TechDirt discussed the turnitin case, and its possible relevance to the Google matter:
That becomes especially interesting given the current lawsuit concerning Google's scanning of books from various university libraries, as it may be able to note the similarities in this situation to Turnitin's. There are some differences -- and clearly, the publishers will claim that the impact on the commercial value is quite different (despite evidence to the contrary -- but this ruling is likely to help Google's position at least somewhat.
On possible plagiarism by the New York Times, see
NYT Argentina Story Lifted Material From Newsweek