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Boston University sues companies over online term papers

October 21, 1997

BOSTON (AP) _ Need a report on McCarthyism? That’ll be $54. A 13-page explanation of moral luck is $65 _ ethical theory costs a bit more.

Both reports are advertised on the Web pages of companies sued in federal court Monday by Boston University, which accuses them of selling term papers over the Internet to a law clerk posing as a student.

The lawsuit alleges wire fraud, mail fraud and racketeering and specifically charges eight companies in seven states with breaking a Massachusetts law that prohibits the sale of term papers. The school said it was the first federal lawsuit brought by a university over the online sale of term papers.

The companies said the documents are made available for research only, not to be submitted as original material. Most have disclaimers to that effect on their Web sites and said they also send a written warning with the materials they sell.

But BU general counsel Bob Smith called the disclaimers a ``sham″ and said other advertising shows that the companies ``know these papers are intended to be submitted for grades and credit.″

Term papers sold to BU were neatly printed and ready to be turned in, Smith said. One company that was not identified offered to put the student’s name, professor’s name and course number on the cover sheet.

Smith said BU officials were not aware of any student submitting a term paper purchased online. The lawsuit seeks a court order barring the companies from doing business in Massachusetts, unspecified damages and the seizure of all the term papers, theses or research documents they have for sale.

One company official said it was an issue of First Amendment rights.

``It’s like if you were given ‘War and Peace’ and use the Cliffs Notes,″ said Robert Vitrano, owner of Professor Abe Korn’s Term Paper, School and Business Help Line in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, one of the defendants. ``There’s nothing wrong with that.″

Cliffs Notes, published by a Lincoln, Neb., company, summarize works of literature. They were banned recently at Villanova University near Philadelphia.

Like other term paper providers, Vitrano said he sends his customers a warning that they shouldn’t submit the work as their own.

``Everyone that calls me, I tell them if they’re going to hand it in as their own work that I don’t want them as a customer,″ he said.

The other companies named were A-Plus Termpapers of Jersey City, N.J.; A-1 Termpapers of West Chester, Pa.; High-Performance Papers of Milwaukee; Research Assistance of Los Angeles; The Paper Store Enterprises Inc. of Jackson, N.J.; Paper Shack of Shreveport, La; and paperz.com of San Antonio. They did not return calls or declined to comment Monday.

A-1 offers 20,000 pre-written term papers at a range of prices, including the McCarthyism report. Custom documents cost up to $35 a page, plus shipping.

At the Web site of paperz.com, where browsers can find the paper on moral luck, there is the following disclaimer:

``While the Gray Master Co. does not condone the substitution of its products for original research and hard work, we trust our customers to make their own responsible decisions about the proper academic use of our products.″

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