While reading an email from Joseph Schumacher about our respective essays on oil and transparency in Africa, I saw a Google text ad that had appeared in response to the content of the message. It advertised one of these paper mills that are all over the Internet. Though aware of them, I had never taken a look at one. I ended up, within 30 seconds, at a site called Cheathouse.com which loudly promises: "THOUSANDS OF FREE ESSAYS IN OVER 130 CATEGORIES. LEADING THE INDUSTRY SINCE 1995."

When I first heard about TurnItIn.com, the web-based anti-plagiarism service that UBC Political Science essays must now all be submitted to, I objected to the idea. It struck me as Orwellian. It also bothered me that this private company would be adding my essays to its databases: the databases it sells access to. That doesn't mean other people would gain access to it, really, but that TurnItIn was profiting off my intellectual property without compensation. It seems increasingly likely that my friend Sarah's dire prediction that I will still be at university in thirty years, just in an office and not needing to come in contact with undergraduates, will prove an accurate one. For academics, original writing is essentially all we have, and it bugged me that TurnItIn would get some financial stake in that.

Back at Cheathouse, I decided to throw the word 'fisheries' into their search engine, just to get an idea of what I could have bought. It came up with numerous essays that could easily have been submitted to my Global Environmental Politics course. Now, Dr. Peter Dauvergne would probably have found out anyone who did, even without TurnItIn, by comparing midterm and final exam results with essay results, but it still disturbed me to see all those fish essays for sale.

It made me glad people are now having to submit their essays to TurnItIn. Like having sealed letters of reference you never see, it's a policy that seems initially unpleasant. Then I realize that, as a strong and hardworking student, they work to my benefit and to the benefit of scholarship in general.

In closing, the irony of ironies:

Loadstone. East Coast Canadian Fisheries. CheatHouse. May 18, 2004. Thursday, 25 November 2004: 5:36 pm

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