Surgery Test Questions Sold On eBay Infringe Copyrights?

from the welcome-to-the-new-world dept

Students stealing test questions and then giving them away or selling them is hardly anything new. However, can such students be accused of copyright infringement? A surgeon who failed his 2002 American Board of Surgery written exam apparently paid his $100 “sitting fee” to later have a chance to look over what he got wrong. Apparently deciding that the $100 was a “good investment” he copied down a bunch of the questions and answers, and later sold them on eBay for a small profit. He also passed the 2003 exam, noting that many of the questions were the same. The Board was not thrilled, eventually stripping him of his certification after having someone pose a potential buyer of the questions. However, they also sued him for copyright infringement and civil theft. The (no longer) surgeon admitted to the copyright infringement and agreed to pay the board $36,000 to hire surgeons to come up with new questions. However, this does raise a variety of questions. While the article focuses on how he got the questions by paying the sitting fee and studying his exam alone (a practice the Board is no longer allowing), is that different than if the surgeon-to-be had just memorized some of the questions while taking the exam? A quick search on Amazon turns up quite a few books with “sample” questions for this exam. It’s likely these sample questions were somehow based on real questions. Do they infringe on the copyrights as well? Also, how come no one is asking why the test uses the same questions every year, despite the fact that they were letting surgeons who failed review their failed exams? Finally, with so many other factors contributing to whether or not someone becomes a surgeon (medical school, training, an oral exam and a recommendation from a mentor) is it really such a big deal that a few of the questions got out there?

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Comments on “Surgery Test Questions Sold On eBay Infringe Copyrights?”

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Adam says:

health insurance...

It’s no wonder why there are so many medical malpractice suits with doctors these days really doing all they can to learn their profession well like this young man.
I wonder if he cheated on any questions that he may need the knowledge for during your Dad’s open heart surgery?
At least this one got caught and has his creds taken.

Block Sheep (user link) says:

Time to de-grade and get rid of tests as evaluatio

Alfie Kohn‘s website has wonderfully thought out arguments against grading and testing, both of which lead to cheating, and have other terrible effects on education.

Here are a few of the good articles:

Ed says:


It’s copyright infringement to reproduce a copyrighted work without permission, whether you use a photocopier, pencil and paper, or memorization to facilitate making the copy. Reproducing a few questions or similar questions might fall under fair use depending on how similar the questions really are, how many of them are reproduced, and so on, but a verbatim copy of many questions is an open and shut case.

I find it a little amusing that someone came to the defense of the MD and said he’s a great young doctor. Well, if he were that great, he shouldn’t have failed the exam.

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