Wednesday, March 30, 2022
The New York Times recently reported that a professor who teaches business law at Chapman University's George L. Argyros School of Business and Economics has sued his own students for copyright infringement after discovering that they had posted his midterm and final exam from last spring on a website called "Course Hero." The website is used by students to share lecture notes, quizzes, syllabi and similar course related materials. Or as Course Hero itself describes it: "a peer to peer study platform through which students and faculty can upload documents to share with one another - almost like a library." Like the Chapman professor, I'd never heard of Course Hero before either but he stumbled across it in January where he discovered that his final exam from the previous spring had been uploaded to the site. Course Hero allows students who upload documents to get free access to some documents while the site also sells monthly subscriptions for $9.99 for full access (sounds a bit like the old Napster/Grokster peer sharing model).
The professor told the NYT that his copyright infringement suit is not aimed at recovering damages from his students but instead he wants to identify them so that he can refer the matter to his university's honor court. Before filing the lawsuit, he registered his final exams with the U.S. Copyright Office so he could then sue in federal court and then seek to serve a subpoena on Court Hero turn over the names of the offending students.
The professor, David Berkovitz, who teaches business law at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., filed a lawsuit against an unnamed group of his students — identified only as “Does” — after he discovered in January that the midterm and final exams he had given in the spring of 2021 had been uploaded to a popular website that students use to share lecture notes, sample quizzes, syllabuses and other documents.
In filing the suit, which accuses the students of copyright infringement, Professor Berkovitz hopes to force the website, Course Hero, to identify those who uploaded the exams along with sample answers that were also on the website, his lawyer, Marc E. Hankin, said on Thursday.
If successful, Professor Berkovitz plans to turn over the names to Chapman’s honor board, Mr. Hankin said. Because Chapman’s business school requires grading on a curve, Professor Berkovitz is worried that students who cheated may have unfairly caused their classmates who played by the rules to receive grades lower down on the curve.
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“The moral and ethical failing notwithstanding, the real concern is these students are hurting their fellow classmates,” Mr. Hankin said.
Students whose scholarships are tied to a minimum grade point average could lose those scholarships through no fault of their own and could even have to leave school, he said. “That’s the real harm he’s trying to prevent,” Mr. Hankin said.
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More from the New York Times here.