Chapman professor sues students after taking exams online


An Orange County professor is suing his students for allegedly uploading copyrighted exam materials to a website used for study and exam preparation.

David Berkovitz, who teaches at Chapman University’s George L. Argyros School of Business and Economics in Orange, found portions of the midterm and final exams for his spring 2021 business course in January on Course Hero, a website that allows students to search for course-specific Access learning resources, court documents say.

According to the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court on Friday, the students allegedly violated copyright law and Berkovitz’s right to “reproduce, make copies of, distribute, or create derivative works from” the materials online without his permission put.

The professor filed and received formal copyright requests for review from the US Copyright Office last month.

It is not yet known which student or students uploaded the exams, but the materials were only accessible to those enrolled in the spring semester class, court documents said.

According to Marc Hankin, an attorney for Berkovitz, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the exams were conducted remotely and included clear notices not to copy questions or answers.

Uploading is also unfair to other students, he said — especially because the course is graded on a curve.

“It partially punishes the wrongdoers, but more importantly, it protects the other students who are hurt by this behavior,” Hankin said of the lawsuit. “You haven’t done anything wrong. They studied hard, they didn’t cheat, and yet their grade is artificially lower than it should have been because of the compulsory curve.”

Chapman University spokeswoman Cerise Valenzuela Metzger declined to comment Thursday on “specific situations involving students,” but said unauthorized posting of exam questions “would likely constitute a violation of our academic integrity policy.”

this policy, available online, says academic dishonesty must be sanctioned and referred to the school’s Academic Integrity Committee, which can impose additional sanctions, including expulsion.

Hankin said Berkovitz initially attempted to manage the incident internally and through Course Hero, but was “hindered at every turn.” He plans to subpoena the company and amend the lawsuit – which currently lists five John and Jane “Does” as defendants – using their real names accordingly.

In a statement Thursday, a spokesperson for Course Hero said the site is a user-generated content platform, meaning they “host content, but don’t review it.” However, it uses automated copyright filters to scan uploaded content, and users must agree to terms of service that prohibit uploading content to which they have no rights, the company said.

“Course Hero has zero tolerance for copyright infringement and employs a number of preventative, investigative and enforcement policies,” it said, adding that in Berkovitz’s case, the infringing content was “quickly processed” by the company’s compliance team and removed upon receipt Warning.

The lawsuit calls for a jury trial for the defendants who uploaded the materials, an injunction preventing them from violating copyrights and an order to confiscate any equipment containing copies of the materials, according to the court documents.

Berkovitz also demands an award of actual and statutory damages; an award of attorneys’ fees and other costs related to the lawsuit; and “such additional remedies as the court may think equitable and reasonable.”

Still, Hankin said, it was less about punishment and more about protecting others in the class.

“Maybe we’ll send a message to other students,” he said. “Do not cheat. It’s just not worth it.”

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-03-17/chapman-professor-sues-students-after-exams-are-posted-online Chapman professor sues students after taking exams online

Dais Johnston

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