Professor Trying to Unmask Cheaters Makes Unusual Move

Chapman University's David Berkovitz is suing his students after finding his exams posted online
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 17, 2022 10:10 AM CDT
Professor Suing His Students to Unmask a Cheater
This Sept. 16, 2008, photo shows a building on the Chapman University campus.   (Wikimedia Commons/Tom Arthur)

Chapman University professor David Berkovitz instructed students not to use class materials or other resources when they completed a midterm and final exam for his business law class from home during the spring 2021 semester. He also instructed students not to copy any part of the exams. He now says one or more didn't listen, as evidenced by pleas for help with exam questions posted on document-sharing website Course Hero, and he's suing as a result. "Normally, a professor wouldn't sue his own students for something like this," Berkovitz's lawyer, Marc Hankin, tells the Washington Post. But Hankin says Berkovitz had no other choice in his quest to unmask the cheaters.

After finding his exam questions online in January, along with requests for help answering them, Berkovitz asked Course Hero to reveal the identity of the poster. "But the company allegedly refused, telling Berkovitz he would need a subpoena," per the Post. Berkovitz, a lawyer himself, got right to work obtaining copyright certificates for his exams, then filed a copyright infringement lawsuit claiming the unknown students "infringed Berkovitz's exclusive right to reproduce, make copies, distribute, or create derivative works." Though the California university isn't a part of the suit, a rep tells the Orange County Register that professors are free to push for the removal of copyrighted content they own.

Course Hero says it deleted Berkovitz's exams. However, four essay questions remain, along with suggested answers, the Register reports. Hankin tells the Post that the required subpoena will be served this week, and that Berkovitz will likely drop the suit once he has a name or names to pass to the university for possible disciplinary action. "He's not trying to bankrupt his students or their parents," says Hankin. "What he's trying to do is prevent cheating and have a chilling effect on students cheating going forward." Hankin notes students were graded on a curve, meaning a high score for a cheater may have resulted in lower grades for students who completed the exams honestly. (More copyright infringement stories.)

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