Copying checker

Scan your essays for plagiarism with this free online service and software.

Viper - the Anti-plagiarism Scanner, promises to scan uploaded documents for plagiarism, a serious issue in academic, business, and publishing spheres. Like other services of its type, it's aimed primarily at students and is intended to reduce the copying and shopping of term papers and essays. Also like the others, it offers free and paid subscription services, both of which offer the same level of checking from the same database and other similar and virtually identical services. The chief difference is what happens to your work nine months later.

On the one hand, Viper is easy to use and seems fairly effective at identifying plagiarized passages and flagging potentially similar passages, misidentified or misattributed quotes, and other suspicious hits for follow-ups. We downloaded and set up the Viper client and logged in to its network via our username and password. As a new user, we could choose the paid or free service; we chose the free service, which involved three steps: add our documents to scan, scan against files on our computer (if we wanted to), and scan for plagiarism on the Internet and/or Viper's database. We uploaded a document, which involved picking a category for it from an extensive drop-down list, and quickly moved through the program's steps. We clicked Start, and Viper noted that our document was queued for processing. Thankfully, our document contained no issues, but the scans can identify a number of potential issues, and the online documentation does a good job explaining each and its consequences. We like the ability to limit scans to the Internet, which can check for illegally republished content.

On the other hand, Viper's free service only keeps your essays private for nine months, after which your work is published in the company's "student essay database" to help other students "learn from your work as an example." Constant offers of editing services and other fee-based options merit caution, too. While the program's documentation asserts that you retain copyright over submitted essays, the only thing that's clear to us is that material you submit for free plagiarism scans is published by the software maker nine months later. Some things sound good at the time, but nine months later, they don't seem so hot. Be sure to read the fine print as carefully as you proofread your own essays.

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