Cheating, Lying, Stealing
This week at our company, Connect For Education (C4E), we return to a periodic task that we loathe. We loathe it on principle, we loathe the mundane time-intensive nature of the actual work involved, we loathe that we have to keep doing this over and over again, and that apparently, it’s our responsibility. What loathsome task are we doing?
We are trying to get Course Hero (and other websites) to take down all the copyrighted material that students have posted there. Well, I shouldn’t say we are trying to get them to take down all the copyrighted material they post. That might mean putting them out of business entirely. If they fully and permanently complied with our requests, they would be left with nothing to post because most of the material on their sites is protected by US copyright and distributed without permission. When I say ‘most’ – I do not have actual data on this, and I doubt they would share it. Truth be told, I would not trust them anyway since their business is built on the false premise that they are ‘helping students succeed.’ But go and see for yourself. You might find your own work up there! We do. All the time. The plain reality is that these sites simply promote stealing and cheating. And they do so by providing a platform for students to ‘share’ material that doesn’t belong to them. If you take a look around the site, what you find are quizzes, tests, exams, assignments (all with answers), syllabi, articles, complete course packets, book chapters, entire textbooks, etc.
There are two big issues: Cheating and Stealing. Publishers, professors, instructors, writers: I encourage you to go and see if your work is being posted and sold on these sites.
We can only do our best to get them to take down our intellectual property posted on their site. And there is always some there. Every couple months, our company has to spend precious time and resources doing this. The materials on Course Hero (again, as far as I can tell – most of them are protected by copyright) are available to students for a monthly access fee. So Course Hero is basically a platform for illegally reselling the work of others. What’s more: members (students) who upload more materials get lower access fees. This is a service that not only facilitates, but promotes, encourages and rewards student cheating.
Sites like these might as well just pay the students directly. After all…
- Students risk severe disciplinary action from their colleges and universities by engaging in this dishonest practice. There is not a single US college or university that would not consider use of this material by their students as cheating.
- Universities also consider it an ethical violation to share one’s own work with other students for the purpose of cheating, and an illegal act to share work protected by copyright without permission to do so.
- There is a deep truth to the tired old phrase “you are only cheating yourselves.” What does it mean for our society when so many students are cheating their way through their higher education? What does it say about character? In any case, Course Hero profits. And that profiting is celebrated and encouraged (they are venture backed).
- Course Hero (and other cheating websites) have somehow gotten themselves off the hook legally. I don’t understand this at all, but apparently Course Hero is not responsible. And it’s up to the copyright holders to police the site to protect their own stolen IP. Remember this is a site specifically designed for students to share course materials. And according to Course Hero – there are 7,000,000 Study Documents and 5,000,000 site members.
More to that fourth point above – it is up to us to identify copyright infringement on their site, and to go through their lengthy and labor-intensive copyright infringement notification and take down process to have our protected IP removed. Which brings us full circle. Here we are doing our monthly routine of searching the Internet, filling out copyright infringement forms, and generally jumping through hoops that sites like Course Hero make us jump through for them to take down our IP.
Shouldn’t these cheating/stealing sites have a vetting process to ensure materials are clear and free before putting them on their site and selling access? Why should we incur the cost when they are making the money from our work?
This time around, I am writing about this. Mostly because it will be therapeutic for me. It’s good to vent. Good to express your anger when things outrage you. Good to fight back a little when your passions, hard work and very means of existence are blatantly and shamelessly attacked and threatened. I would also like to share my perspective with the college and university faculty I meet with every day. These folks know better than anybody about cheating websites, essay writing services, plagiarism and the like. As folks who are mission driven, educators understand the consequences of academic ethics from a both a philosophical and practical standpoint. We feel your pain and invite you to join in this absolutely critical discussion.