Licensing Boards Think Studying For A Test Is Copyright Infringement, Forbid Memorization Of Material
from the 'all-applicants-must-have-brain-wiped-before-leaving-testing-area' dept
Today’s copyright-induced stupidity is brought to you by… a whole host of regulatory institutions. An anonymous Techdirt reader sent in a pointer to this ridiculous warning that greets those accessing the National Association of Legal Assistants practice tests. (Press “Sign In” to view the legal threats pop-up.)
These online practice tests and all items contained herein are protected by federal copyright law. No part of this examination may be copied, reproduced or shared in any manner, in part or whole, by any means whatsoever, including memorization or electronic transmission.
While I realize there have been several attempts to broaden the coverage of copyright and extend its length towards the far end of perpetuity, I was unaware that federal copyright law now provides remedies for the creation of infringing memories.
This would be merely inane (but still noteworthy), if this stupidity began and ended with the NALA’s stern warning. But a search for that wording finds examples elsewhere.
Here’s the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners making the same ridiculous claim:
These sample tests and all items contained herein are protected by federal copyright law. No part of these tests may be copied, reproduced, or shared in any manner, in part or in whole, by any means whatsoever, including memorization or electronic transmission.
Here’s Michigan State University going one step further than the previous two and basically stating that studying for a test is copyright infringement.
The examination and the items contained therein are protected by copyright law. No part of this examination may be copied or reproduced in part or whole by any means whatsoever, including memorization, note-taking, or electronic transmission.
Who else thinks copyright law forbids the storage of infringing copies in the original cloud storage system, the human brain?
- American Board of Perianesthesia Nursing Certification
- Texas Pharmacy Technician Certification Board
- American Association of Veterinary State Boards
- Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation
- National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc.
The list goes on from there, but as you can see, anyone offering some sort of expensive testing process/licensing claims you can’t memorize their tests. How they aim to prevent this remains unanswered. Presumably, if someone duplicates the test from memory and offers these materials to others, they would pursue this as infringement.
It’s clear they’re trying to head off students selling questions and answers, something that could undermine the certification system. (Of course, these agencies could change their questions from year-to-year to head this off, but that would be far more difficult than just smacking around applicants with highly-dubious legal language.) But claiming that memorization is forbidden under copyright law is just idiotic. Unauthorized duplication and distribution might be, but creating cached copies in your mind while studying certainly isn’t. It’s an integral part of studying for tests. Throughout their educational existence, students use memorization to become familiar with the subject matter, and now, when they attempt to apply that in hopes of receiving certification, they’re greeted with notices that say this practice is against the law.
Then there’s the question of fair use, that awkward part of copyright protection that many rights holders tend to ignore. A few sample questions being reproduced would be an obvious case of fair use, but according to the (literally) “don’t even think about it” warnings, this would also be an actionable offense.
A better solution would be to simply strike that asinine wording and deal with actual duplication of test materials that stretch beyond the limits of fair use. Those performing these acts of infringement are generally in it to profit from those who can’t be bothered to learn the material. Chances are, most people wouldn’t view the edited legal preamble as providing a but-I-can-store-it-in-my-brain loophole. The same goes for note-taking, which a few of these notices also single out. The problem isn’t the person’s notes, which are still personal. It’s the duplication and distribution to the public. You can still keep people from taking notes during the actual tests, but you certainly can’t keep them from remembering what they’ve seen.