College student sues Proctorio after source code copyright claim

Erik Johnson, a Miami University student, has been sued by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), against Proctorio, a remote testing company. According to the EFF, the lawsuit was filed to “quail a campaign of harassment intended to undermine important concerns” regarding the remote testing software. This is the latest legal fight for the software company that has been publicly criticized by online critics over the past year.

The suit will address Johnson’s September 2013 behavior. Johnson discovered that Proctorio Chrome extension was required for two classes. Johnson then created a long Twitter thread critiquing its practices, including links to the source code. According to screenshots seen by The Verge, Mike Olsen, Proctorio CEO, sent Johnson a direct tweet asking him to remove the code from Pastebin. Proctorio then filed a copyright notice and three tweets were deleted after Johnson refused. They were later reinstated following TechCrunch’s investigation.

The EFF claims that Johnson used Proctorio’s codes in a fair manner and that Johnson’s actions “violated Johnson’s First Amendment rights.”

“Copyright owners should be held responsible when they falsely accuse critics of copyright violation, especially when the goal was plainly to intimidate or undermine them,” stated Cara Gagliano, EFF Staff Attorney.

Johnson stated to The Verge that he was doing this because he opposes student surveillance and other abuses of copyright laws. Johnson said that this isn’t the first or last time that a company has used copyright law to make criticisms more difficult. This abuse of power will continue if nobody speaks up.

Proctorio, one of the most popular software platforms

Proctorio, one of the most popular software platforms schools use to monitor cheating on remote exams, is Proctorio. With the advent of remote learning, Proctorio saw a surge in popularity. It proctored more than 16 million exams last year. It records students using their webcams and monitors their head position while they take exams. It alerts professors to “suspicious” signs. They can then review the recordings. It allows instructors to monitor the websites students visit during exam periods and to ban them from using functions such as copying and pasting text.

Proctorio has been criticized by students and teachers across the country. They claim it violates student privacy, and discriminates against students from marginalized communities. In December, the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a complaint about the service and four others, calling it “inherently intrusive.” The coalition of US senators included Sens. In an open letter, Richard Blumenthal (D–CT), Elizabeth Warren(D-MA) and Cory Booker [D-NJ] raised similar concerns about Proctorio last year.

Proctorio has been in conflict with critics before. However, he was more often a plaintiff. The company sued a University of British Columbia technology specialist who posted a series of criticisms about the platform last October. Proctorio claimed that the thread contained links to YouTube videos not listed on YouTube. Proctorio claimed that the lawsuit caused outrage in the education sector. Hundreds of university faculty, staff, administrators and students signed an open letter supporting the specialist. A GoFundMe was set up to cover his legal expenses and raised $60,000 from more than 700 donors.

“We disagree that sharing confidential information is the same thing as criticism,” Olsen told The Verge at the time. “Posting these kinds of things…it risks students learning how to circumvent the software, and it risks the safety and security of millions of students who use the software.”

“We are aware of the lawsuit,” a Proctorio spokesperson told.

Proctorio will vigorously defend itself on the merits and expects to be fully vindicated in court.


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