Computer anti-plagiarism champion accused of stealing

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 March, 2013, 11:41am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 March, 2013, 2:36pm

By the age of 27, computer whiz Wang Lei had made more than ten million yuan from a plagiarism detection website he developed while still at school. But the Jiangsu man is no Chinese Mark Zuckerberg – he was arrested for stealing. 

Wang’s website had provided plagiarism detection services to students to help them discover whether their academic work had been plagiarised. But police have now found that his website database contained over 90 million stolen university theses. Wang had paid nothing for them, the Modern Express newspaper reported this week.

Police launched an investigation after receiving complaints from a “well-known” website which provides similar services. This website reported that a large amount of theses in their database had been “stolen” and they had traced it to a website called “3PS”. This website belonged to Wang.

Wang confessed he stole much of the data using a software he developed at school. This could get around online databases’ security systems, enabling him to obtain theses stored in their databases. The software worked automatically, Wang explained.

According to police, websites providing plagiarism detection services often require a hundred staffers or more. Wang’s website only had a few employees. Because Wang ran the operation at very little cost, he could charge the website’s services cheaply – only 10 yuan per one million words. Similar services provided by other websites cost hundreds of yuan, a police spokesman said.

This gave Wang’s website a tremendous edge in the market. In only a 10-day period last December, police said Wang’s website had generated massive revenue – over 1.5 million yuan.

Plagiarism detection services are usually supported by two components: a computing system which detects similar patterns within two academic works; and a database which stores large amounts of academic data.

These services are mostly used in academic fields. Students use them to check for plagiarism in theses before giving them to academics. University staff use it to check whether students have been plagiarising.