Chapman Professor Slaps Students with Lawsuit After Finding Exams Online

“It’s partly punishing the wrongdoers, but more importantly, it’s protecting the other students who are being hurt by this behavior,” Marc Hankin, an attorney for professor, said

UPDATE: March 20, 2022 — Chapman University said a statement to Los Angeles that it is “not involved in this lawsuit and is not a party to the legal action,” adding, “In accordance with the university’s copyright policies, with limited exceptions, professors own the copyrights to their work. Professors are free to pursue the removal of their copyright-protected content from websites such as Course Hero, however, we encourage faculty to use internal processes to work through student concerns.”

March 18, 2022 — David Berkovitz, a professor at Chapman University’s George L. Argyros School of Business and Economics in Orange County, is suing his students for allegedly uploading copyrighted test materials to a website where quizzes and exam documents are shared.

In January, Berkovitz discovered parts of the midterm and final exams from a business class he taught remotely in spring 2021 on the popular site Course Hero, according to court documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times. Students typically use the site to access a variety of study resources and course notes.

The complaint, filed Friday in U.S. District Court, accuses the students of copyright infringement by posting the class materials online without consulting Berkowitz. He was granted formal copyright applications for his exams from the U.S. Copyright Office in February.

Court documents do not include the names of the students but list five John and Jane “Does.” However, the documents state that the exam and midterm were only available to those enrolled in the spring semester class.

Berkovitz points out that uploading his exams to the study site was particularly unfair since the course is graded on a curve.

“It’s partly punishing the wrongdoers, but more importantly, it’s protecting the other students who are being hurt by this behavior,” Marc Hankin, an attorney for Berkovitz, told the Times. “They did nothing wrong. They studied hard, they didn’t cheat, and yet their grade is artificially lower than it should have been because of the mandatory curve.”

Hankin added that Berkovitz initially tried to handle the incident through Course Hero, but was “stymied at every turn.” He intends to subpoena the company and amend his complaint to list the students’ names.

As stated on Course Hero’s site, it is their policy to “respond to clear notices of alleged copyright infringement.” If someone were to file a copyright infringement with the site, they reserve the right to “remove or disable access to the infringing material,” in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

The academic integrity policy for Chapman states that “academic dishonesty of any kind” is subject to “sanction by the instructor/administrator and referral to the University’s Academic Integrity Committee.”

According to court documents, the suit seeks a jury trial for the defendants who are accused of uploading the midterm and final exam to Course Hero. This would seek to prevent them from infringing the copyrights and impound any devices that contain copies of the material.

Berkovitz is additionally requesting an award of actual and statutory damages, attorneys’ fees, and other suit costs, as well as “any and all additional relief that the Court may deem just and proper.”

Hankin insisted it was more about protecting other students in the course than it was about punishment, saying “maybe we’ll send a message to other students… don’t cheat. It’s just not worth it.”

Chapman University did not respond to a request for comment from Los Angeles.

Stay on top of the latest in L.A. news, food, and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.