|Berkman General Laws (BGL)
Section 1. Short Title
This act may be referred to as the "Educational Honesty Act."
Section 2. Findings; Purpose
(a) Findings The Legislature makes the following findings:
- The Internet is a new technology with a vast potential for enhancing communication and
the sharing of information worldwide. The growth of the Internet promises to allow people
to share thoughts and ideas, from the simple to the scholarly, in ways that were little
imagined even a decade ago. As the Internet becomes a repository for this communication,
it also promises to become an important research tool.
- Testimony before us indicates that an alarming number of students are misusing the
Internet, with the encouragement of a new breed of Internet service the term paper
Web site. Studies show that, last year alone, students purchased tens of thousands of
packaged, prewritten papers off the Internet, and more than one million students visited
sites that offer such papers for free. About sixty-five percent of these students are high
school-age or younger, and about half of them are habitual users, coming to the term paper
site about once each week. These numbers will grow as Internet access becomes more
- Several student witnesses testified that they would not have plagiarized without
Internet access, either because they would not have had access to pre-written papers, or
because they would not have had time to acquire a paper from a mail-order source.
Testimony indicates that increased access to papers, many of which are free, in
combination with the tendency of many students to work at the "last-minute,"
creates an inducement to plagiarize which many students, particularly those younger
students still in secondary education, find difficult to resist.
- Assisting and promoting plagiarism the most serious academic offense
strikes at the core of the educational process, and thus at the very heart of a free
society. Doing a students work for him not only deprives him of the valuable
discipline of the learning process, but tends to destroy his moral fiber by lending
credence to the all too prevalent notion that anything, including a degree, can be bought
for a price.
- Public schools are important in the preparation of individuals for participation as
citizens, in the preservation of the values on which our society rests, and as a means of
inculcating fundamental values necessary to the maintenance of a democratic political
- Testimony from school psychologists suggests that adolescent students are in a critical
period of identity and value formation, when they are particularly vulnerable to influence
by others, particularly their peers, and especially susceptible to academic pressure.
- Many of these sites, with names like "Cheater.com" and "Evil House of
Cheat," directly encourage students to plagiarize rather than do the necessary
learning on their own.
- The Web allows for anonymous browsing of packaged and prewritten term papers and instant
accessibility. Buying a paper online is alarmingly easy. It is fast, simple, and safe. A
panicked student can log on to the Internet, and download a pre-written, perfectly
packaged term paper in a matter of minutes.
- The popular Web index Yahoo!, the first search option for many, has 35 links to term
paper sites, experts have testified to as many as 72 English-language term paper sites.
- While secondary school students are particularly vulnerable to these sites, term paper
companies market to college students as well. Companies package papers so they can almost
be handed to professors "as-is." Many custom write papers to student
specifications, down to minute details like font, margin size, and style of attribution.
Nearly every school disciplinary board reports an incident, and experts agree that the
overwhelming majority of cases go undetected.
- Plagiarism at our institutions of higher learning corrupts the integrity and
significance of a college degree, creating an unfair slur on the vast majority of students
who honestly fulfill course requirements.
- Previous attempts at legislative proscription have failed because they have proscribed
only the sale of term papers. Testimony indicates that the most serious threat to ethics
in the classroom comes from Web sites that do not charge for term papers. These sites are
typically supported by advertising, or by a nominal membership fee, and are not covered by
current laws. This statute eliminates this loophole by extending the prohibition to cover
all manner of distribution, whether by sale or otherwise.
- Purposes The purposes of this act are:
- To promote the use and growth of the Internet a tool for communication and research by
those seeking to conduct honest research, and inhibit the use of the Internet by those who
encourage others to pass off anothers work as their own.
- To protect the integrity of education against the increased threat of widespread
plagiarism, made possible by the surging popularity of the Internet.
- To protect the morals and values of our children from those who encourage them to cheat.
- To extend the prohibition against helping a student plagiarize to those who give papers
to students as well as sell them.
Section 3. Definitions .
For purposes of this statute:
- "Distribution" means intentional dissemination in any manner.
- "Term paper" means any form of written academic work, in part or in whole,
including, but not limited to, a theme, thesis, report of research results, or fictional
- "Educational institution" means any school, college, university, or other
educational program, either private, parochial, or public.
Section 4. Prohibition of Term Paper Distribution
- A person commits an offense if he, alone or in concert with others, distributes to
another, or arranges for or assists in such distribution with another, a term paper,
knowing or having reason to know that such term paper will be submitted or used by some
other person for academic credit and represented as the original work of such person at an
educational institution without proper attribution as to source.
- It shall be presumed that a person has reason to know that such term paper will be
submitted or used by some other person for academic credit and represented as original
work if such distribution occurs over the Internet, or any other computer network, and any
of the following services are offered or promoted
- custom research, formatting or writing; or
- addition of the students name to the paper; or
- blocking sale or distribution of the paper to a certain geographic region or educational
- specification or categorization of paper length or word count or similar device for
establishing page length; or
- specification or categorization of formatting or method of attribution.
(c) In addition to any other defenses available by law, each person will have an
affirmative defense if:
- That person fully cooperates in a State-approved Internet-based search engine aimed at
helping teachers detect plagiarized term-papers. Cooperation shall not be deemed to be
full unless the particular term paper which is the subject of the offense is retrievable
by the search engine; or
- That person did not distribute the particular term paper until 96 hours passed from the
moment the term paper was requested; or
- That person participates in any emerging Internet technologies or protocols designed to
unalterably mark the origin of data travelling across the Internet in a manner so that
material from the Internet is automatically identified in the submitted paper; or
- That person only distributes the term paper with the original author identified and in
PDF format so that the term paper can not be electronically manipulated by the buyer.
Section 5. Sanctions
(a) An offense under this statute is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine not to exceed
$4,000, or confinement in jail not to exceed one year, or both.
(b) A person who has committed an offense under this statute shall be susceptible to
suit in civil court by the educational institution which is the ultimate recipient of the
term paper, for damages equal to $4,000 for each offense committed against the
institution, plus court costs and reasonable attorney fees, and for such additional relief
as may be available at equity.