Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Digital Ownership (or I don’t think I gave you permission)

The rough of my 'big' research paper was due yesterday and as I had the opinion of emailing it to the professor, I did just that. Now before I go on, I need to explain that part of the class grade is also given for critiquing one of our classmates papers. Still that knowledge did not prepare me to receive a classmate's paper as an email attachment

Only it wasn't just a email attachment. The professor had forwarded my classmates email to him to me. So now not only do I have a digital copy of her paper, a word document no less, my classmates email address, but I also know the exact time she emailed the professor along with the text of her email to him.

Momentarily I was distracted by the paper itself (the phrase 'It has long been know,' made a appearance, and spell-check doesn't appear to exist on her computer) and the fact I had roughly 24hrs to write a critique and prepare an oral. Therefore, it wasn't until I was going to bed that it hit me, that if I now possessed a word document of someone's paper, along with their email then someone out there had my paper and email.

It unnerved me more than a little bit.

I hate to even think that one of my classmates would sell a classmates paper or plagiarize it, but it is unfortunately something that goes on. I'm not only worried about my paper but my classmates.

Part of me is sure I'm over reacting, but another part of me wants to bring this up to the Professor.

As far as I'm concerned I had ownership digital or otherwise to that paper –rough draft or not. I emailed the paper to my Professor, I gave my permission for him to posses a digital copy of my paper, no one else.

Is this something I should bring up to the Professor or should I just keep my mouth shut? Would you want your student bringing something like this that unnerves them to your attention?

I'm really at a loss what to do.


Alexandra P said...

That sounds like something you should absolutely bring up with the Prof. Can you word along the lines of a question? - eg "I was wondering about copyright..." blah blah, getting point across but not seeming to blame Prof until they see the error of their ways? If it's making you uncomfortable, you need to do something about it. The copyright stuff aside, even, the email address thing would seem to open a *huge* can o' worms for privacy reasons, if you have never explicitly given your permission for it to be disseminated. I emailed a guest lecturer once with some (some politely worded) issues with his lecture, and he forwarded it to my tutor without asking me... I got righteously annoyed and took great umbrage. Don't know that it had a big impact on anyone, of course...

Bardiac said...

I think it's okay to bring up, but you might want to couch it in terms of having heard that at some schools, frats keep files of papers, and you don't want someone to plagiarize?

On the other hand, do you think the peer editing process has the potential to help you? Do you learn from helping your colleague? Do you have a chance to learn from someone else's response? I've found peer work so valuable (when I was a student, and as a prof) that I'd risk the feeling that someone else has my work for the valuable feedback and learning opportunity.

History Geek said...

Alex- I talked to the Prof today and he hadn't even realized he'd forwarded the emails, so that was a mistake on his part. Only two of us emailed our papers as opposed to hard copies, so as it turns out I worked myself up over nothing.

Bardiac- I'm always wary of peer editing, when I don't really have a feel for the other person. Most of my papers do go through peer editing but it is in the context of someone I know and trust.

Someone else having my work isn't my real issue. The issue had more to do with the format my work was in, an unprotected word document. It is paranoid I know but I have heard enough classmates talk about selling their own papers to worry.