An international nonprofit digital rights group has filed a lawsuit against software company Proctorio on behalf of Miami University student Erik Johnson.
The lawsuit, filed by Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), intends to “seek judgment that he did not infringe the company’s copyrights when he linked to excerpts of its software code in tweets criticizing the software maker.”
“Software companies don’t get to abuse copyright law to undermine their critics,” EFF Staff Attorney Cara Gagliano said. “Using pieces of code to explain your research or support critical commentary is no different from quoting a book in a book review.”
Johnson is a computer engineering student from Miami University who, last September 2020, published a Twitter thread of his concerns about the company’s remote test-proctoring software. His thread also compiled links to excerpts of Proctorio’s source code on Pastebin.
Johnson was compelled to examine Proctorio’s software after his instructors facilitated tests using the platform.
“A Proctorio agent will review and verify the test taker’s room scan”
“live id check”
All while still saying that professors are the only ones who can access recordings and look at students?
— Erik Johnson (@ejohnson99) September 8, 2020
Misuse of Copyright?
According to The Verge, Proctorio CEO Mike Olsen reached out to Johnson on Twitter to request that he remove the code on Pastebin. After Johnson refused, the company filed a copyright takedown notice and had three of his tweets removed. However, these tweets were reinstated after TechCrunch reported on the event.
“This isn’t the first, and won’t be the last time a company abuses copyright law to try and make criticism more difficult. If nobody calls out this abuse of power now, it’ll just keep happening,” Johnson told The Verge.
The lawsuit argues that the company’s actions interfered with Johnson’s First Amendment rights.
“Copyright holders should be held liable when they falsely accuse their critics of copyright infringement, especially when the goal is plainly to intimidate and undermine them,” Gagliano said.
Previously, Proctorio has been cited due to security concerns and surveillance issues. Earlier this year, the University of Illinois Urbana – Champaign announced that it would discontinue their use of the service after numerous complaints from students and faculty. These concerns highlight the need for alternative methods that would discourage students from cheating without resorting to surveillance.