Massachusetts Federal Court Rejects term paper case

Boston University’s lawsuit against companies that sell term papers over the Internet was thrown out by a federal judge in December. But university officials say they will refile the case in state court.

The university filed the lawsuit in October 1997 against eight companies and individuals that sell research materials online. According to the university, officials conducted a “sting” operation by posing as students who were seeking term papers to turn in as their own work for university assignments. After uncovering Web sites that they alleged sold them papers for such a purpose, the university sought an injunction in federal court to prevent the companies from selling term papers in Massachusetts and asked the court to dissolve the companies. Several of the companies settled the university’s claims against out of court.

Both the companies and First Amendment advocates questioned the legitimacy of the lawsuit and the implications it could have for free speech. They suggested that the claim could pose a threat to any publisher who distributes information that is used by someone else for an inappropriate or illegal purpose.

Boston University officials have pledged to pursue the matter by refiling the case in state court.

Case: Trustees of Boston University v. ASM Communication, No. 97-12365-PBS (December 4, 1998)