The Case

Students own their work and have a legal right to share notes and past assignments they create
Students have always owned the work they create during their studies. When you own a piece of work, you are granted certain rights under the law. These rights allow you to make this work public and benefit economically from its creation.
But... Universities are unfairly preventing students from publishing this work
Some universities, in an overreaction to recently exposed cheating websites, decided that students should be restricted from being able to distribute or publish work they own. The actions of these universities are an infringement on the legal rights of student-authors and have overstepped the mark.
Your work, your right to publish

The Situation Today

UNIS WRONGLY ACCUSING STUDENTS OF 'CONTRACT CHEATING'

Several universities are blindly extending the interpretation of their misconduct policies to extend beyond cheating, and have wrongly accused students who publish their study notes and past assessments of participating in 'contract cheating'.

UNIS DEMAND STUDENTS REMOVE THEIR WORK, YEARS AFTER PUBLISHING

Some universities have reached out to students many years after they have legally published their work, to demand that it is taken down. Students who object to their work being forceably removed from publication are faced with the challenge of defending their right to publish in a disciplinary hearing without legal advice or assistance in these matters.

UNIS REFUSE TO SET CLEAR GUIDELINES ON HOW TO PUBLISH

All Australian universities have an obligation to respect the rights of students who publish past work they legally own. To date however, no university in Australia has attempted to establish a framework that governs how this should occur.

UNIS ARE MAKING EDUCATIONAL TOOLS ILLEGAL

Universities have pressured government to introduce draft legislation to tackle 'contract cheating', however the draft form of these laws may also make it a criminal offence to publish past student work along with potentially criminalising many other legitimate educational tools.

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How We Got Here

IN THE BEGINNING
Students have always shared notes and past assignments

Students and academics have always relied on notes and past work to study from, allowing students to collaborate and learn from their peers. In the old days, studying in this way was done face to face with study groups and library meet-ups.

AROUND 15 YEARS AGO
Innovation Begins

Education platforms such as Quizlet, Course Hero, Chegg and Study Blue launched online in the US, creating the first online spaces for students to share their past work.

AROUND 10 YEARS AGO
Australian startups enter the student publishing space

Australian businesses such as Nexus Notes, Thinkswap and StudentVip launch local versions of these education platforms, providing students with Australian centric content and education tools.

AROUND 5 YEARS AGO
Ghostwriting services are exposed

The issue of 'contract cheating' is brought to light with the MyMaster scandal. Contract cheating is when a student uses a third party to complete their assignments for them and submit it as their own. Universities are asked to show how they have protected themselves against this threat by TEQSA, the national university education standards board in Australia.

SINCE THEN
Unis impose unfair restrictions on students

Universities have since introduced unreasonably broad policies that not only capture 'contract cheating', but also legitimate study practices that students have always relied on. Sharing of student created work is frowned upon and universities have pressured the government to introduce broad laws that extend far beyond the scope of preventing 'contract cheating'.

What really is Contract Cheating?

Contract cheating occurs when a student submits work that has been completed for them by a third party, irrespective of the third party’s relationship with the student

Bretag & Harper et al 2018

Contract Cheating is a form of academic dishonesty where students get academic work completed on their behalf, which they then submit for academic credit [and/or advantage] as if they had created it themselves

International Center of Academic Integrity
Student Publishing VS Contract Cheating
Australia’s international expert in academic integrity, Dr Tracey Bretag, provides a clearly defined distinction between what is considered ‘sharing’ (or in our terminology 'publishing') and ‘cheating’ behaviours.
  • Cheating Behaviours
    • Obtaining a completed assignment
      (to submit as one's own)
    • Providing Exam Assistance
    • Receiving Exam Assistance
    • Taking an Exam for Another
    • Arranging for another to take one's Exam
Contract Cheating and Assessment Design, 2018. Additional Findings from a Survey of Students and Staff at Australian Universities. —
Sharing Behaviours
Publishing study notes and graded assignments from previous semesters
This involves buying, selling or trading notes and providing/making public past assignments after you have completed the relevant subject. This is sharing.
Cheating Behaviours
Writing an assignment for another student that they will hand in as their own
This involves requesting someone to complete an assessment for you. In this situation, a student is explicitly asking a third party to complete a piece of work on their behalf. This is cheating.
Publishing Past Work is clearly not contract cheating
In summary, contract cheating is when a student asks another person to complete an assignment for them and then submits it as their own, that is, a bespoke piece of work created specific to a current assessment task.

A PhD student publishing a thesis in an academic journal or a lecturer sharing a past student's exemplar with the class are 'sharing behaviours' and have long been common study techniques. Confusing this with ‘contract cheating’ threatens to impinge upon the rights of thousands of student publishers and cripples the established way in which all knowledge is built upon, that is, to read and learn from the work of others.

Why universities aren't being fair

Universities are wrongly interpreting student publishing as 'contract cheating'
In an attempt to capture students that cheat by getting their assignments written for them, some universities have interpreted their policies to prohibit sharing and publishing altogether. This interpretation goes beyond cheating, and wrongly accuses students that make their study notes and past assessments public of 'contract cheating'.
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Universities are disregarding the rights students have to publish their work under the law
The Copyright Act and university intellectual property policies give students ownership of the work they create at university. This also means they have the right to make this work public and benefit economically from its creation. Universities are clearly not respecting these legal rights and wrongly restricting students from publishing their past work.
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Prohibiting student publishing means students can't make money from their notes
Owning the copyright in a piece of work gives you several rights under the law. One of the most important rights it grants you is the ability to assign the rights to this work to another individual for money. Believe it or not, assignments and notes you create at university have a significant economic value. If universities are preventing you from publishing this work, then you lose the ability to benefit from its creation.
Universities suggest student publishing encourages cheating... But this is not the case
Some universities suggest that student publishing may encourage plagiarism, however this is not true. Student publishing strictly deals with work created in previous semesters. In this case, all past work has been passed through plagiarism detection software which means other students can’t hand in any part of this work as their own without being caught. However students are permitted to use this work if they reference the source.

In addition to this, publishing past work is not the same as providing an answer to a student undertaking a current assignment. Whilst the “answer” to a specific question might be contained in another student's published work, this is no different to finding an answer out of a textbook or research paper. In short, when students responsibly publish their work, this is done for the benefit of the wider public and not for any specific individual. Suggesting all student publishing should be prohibited in order to prevent minimal risks of plagiarism, is unfair and over the top given the significant safeguards in place.
Universities give themselves the right to publish your work but unfairly prevent you from doing the same
Despite universities taking a stance against students publishing their past work, lecturers and tutors often do just that by providing exemplars of past student work to their classes and exploiting student created work in different ways. It's unfair that universities can do as they wish with student work however students (that own legal rights to this work) are restricted from publishing and benefiting from it.
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It's in the self-interest of some academics to ban student publishing
It is a relatively unknown fact that many undergraduate lecturers author textbooks to be used in their classes. These lecturers earn royalties on the sale of these works and have a financial self-interest in selling these textbooks to students, often costing in excess of $200. Any study material that potentially competes with these textbooks, such as student authored notes or past assignments, may lead to lecturers earning less money.

In addition, some universities require that assessment questions are modified each semester to prevent students from copying previously used work. Whilst students that are tempted to copy are caught by plagiarism detection software, changing assessment questions each semester is an added workload many academics are apprehensive to adopt. At universities where no such requirement exists, some academics are often fiercely opposed to legal student publishing as modifying assessment questions each semester is a more involved task.
Students who defend their right to publish are forced to fight in unfair and unequal circumstances
Universities often require a student to defend their publishing rights in the context of an imbalanced and unfair disciplinary hearing. Behind these closed doors, students are not afforded legal representation or advice, discussions are held in private, and the argument is made to the same individuals who have a have a vested interest in preventing student publishing from occurring in the first place. Students are often encouraged by student advisors to remove published work prior to attending these meetings to appease the university. In an environment where universities hold all the power and there is no opportunity for public review or comment on decisions, students are not treated fairly when exercising their rights as student authors.
Universities aren't sure whats right or wrong
It is not uncommon for a university to make conflicting decisions at disciplinary hearings, where one committee may rule student publishing is acceptable and not in breach of the rules while another committee within the same university determines that student publishing is unacceptable. A lack of consistency in decision making has been unfair for students and whilst universities unanimously agree that students have the right to ownership in their work, there is no guidance how this work can be published without being in breach of their rules.

What needs to happen now

Universities must recognise student publishing rights in their policies
Universities must ensure their policies give students the right to make their work public, when that work is published responsibly and after the completion of a subject.
An exemption must be added to the upcoming contract cheating laws so that student publishing rights are respected
The Education Minister, Hon. Dan Tehan MP, must acknowledge the rights of student authors in the drafting of this new legislation and add an exemption to these laws that consider the rights students have to publish academic work after their studies.

How do we do this?

Option 1
Share our campaign on Facebook and Twitter

Let friends and other students know to check out this campaign.

Option 2
Sign our change.org petition

Sign our petition for the government to clearly recognise student publishing rights the contract cheating laws due to be debated later in 2019. This petition will be delivered to the Australian Education minister, Hon. Dan Tehan MP.

Option 3
Tweet your University and get them to take notice of this campaign

Let your university know this is an issue you care about. Choose your uni from the list below and we will automatically add a mention to your tweet.

Who We Are

This campaign is being run by the Responsible Student Publishers Association, the sole voice and peak professional body representing student publishing in Australia.