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Chapman University Prof Files Lawsuit After Midterm and Final Exams are Posted Online

Chapman University Prof Files Lawsuit After Midterm and Final Exams are Posted Online

“Defendants knew or should have known that their acts constituted Copyright Infringement”

Who knew online tests would lead to such problems? Besides everyone, I mean.

NBC News reports:

California college professor sues students after midterm and final exams are posted online

An assistant professor at Chapman University filed a federal lawsuit accusing at least one student of posting parts of his midterm and final exams online.

David A. Berkovitz, who teaches business at Chapman, a private university in Orange, California, accused five unnamed defendants of copyright infringement and wants the material removed from Course Hero, an education website that provides study material for students.

“Defendants infringed Berkovitz’s exclusive right to reproduce, make copies, distribute, or create derivative works by publishing the Midterm Exam and Final Exam on the Course Hero Website without Berkovitz’s permission,” the lawsuit says.

“Defendants knew or should have known that their acts constituted Copyright Infringement,” it says.

The suit, filed March 10 in U.S. District Court for Central California, does not identify any of the defendants.

Berkovitz said in the lawsuit that his midterm and final exams, which were administered online because of the coronavirus pandemic, can be accessed only by students currently in the class.

He was able to file the copyright infringement lawsuit after he obtained copyright registrations for the material he uses in his tests.


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Good for the professor! Cheating should be discouraged at every turn. If you don’t, pretty soon dead people will be voting and senile old basement dwellers will somehow magically win presidential elections.

healthguyfsu | March 18, 2022 at 2:41 pm

Glad someone is standing up

How were undergraduate students supposed to “know or should have known” that tests were copyrighted or copyright laws in general? It would never have occurred to me in college and I still didn’t know it until now. I think there is something else going on when a Prof sues students. Cheating, yes go after them for that if guilty but Copyright Infringement?

    hrhdhd in reply to diver64. | March 19, 2022 at 1:33 pm

    Please. Any student who posts to a “study help” website such as Course Hero or Chegg knows exactly what he’s doing.

    Milhouse in reply to diver64. | March 20, 2022 at 11:15 am

    Why would it ever occur to you that they might not be copyright? Someone wrote them, right? That took at least some (in fact a great deal of) creativity, right? So of course they’re automatically copyright. Comments on this blog are copyright, fercryinoutloud, so how could an exam not be?

The counterargument is that the test is a “work made for hire” and that if anyone owns the copyright, it is the University. Now the students could argue that they had an implied license to copy the exam. First because there is no way to take an online exam without making a copy on your computer, and second, there was no express license that limited the number and distribution of copies that you make.

For example, if a professor gives a take home exam and then hands back the graded papers to each student, is there any restriction on placing that paper in a file cabinet at the fraternity house for people to use in future years? No copying is involved in that case. This makes it harder to argue that Champman University took all necessary legal steps to protect its rights to the online exam since it is going much farther than the rights it asserts for take-home exams.

The fact that Chapman did not file lawsuit, means that it was probably afraid of a counterclaim that Chapman is not providing the education promised to the student.

COVID has done so much to destroy the student-professor relationship that I am not surprised that these fights are erupting. This says a lot more about Champman and its students than it does about copyright law.

    hrhdhd in reply to lawgrad. | March 20, 2022 at 9:25 pm

    My institution’s intellectual property policy grants me ownership of anything I create in the normal course of my job, excepting very specific materials such as those created while I’m being paid for a grant. Also, in our course management system, students don’t need to make copies of an exam; they open the exam in the CMS and answer the questions. No copies are required.