Scenario: someone creates an excel sheet in docs.google.com. Make the document publicly visible. And post some exam questions that he/she had to write at the exam and the answers if possible. And asks other exam takers to add their exam questions they had to face at the exam as well. Suppose the exam is a international exam, such as IELTS etc. Since we are exchanging what we had to write at the exam, can IELTS officials sue us from copyright infringement? Criminal law? Legal background of this?

1 Answer 1


Most exams are going to have an agreement that prohibits this type of thing. The main penalty is that a violator automatically fails the exam and perhaps is banned from taking it again. The exam owner may also threaten copyright violations (which are civil, not criminal, meaning they will sue for damages).

There was a case where this sort of thing was discussed. EDUCATIONAL TESTING SERVICE, et al. v. STANLEY H. KAPLAN, EDUCATIONAL CENTER, LTD. 965 F.Supp. 731 (1997)

...take the test in an organized effort to prove that there was a large number of reappearing questions that could be memorized and passed on. When this effort was successful, Kaplan compiled a list of 200 questions from the exam. Without more these actions would not have constituted a copyright violation because of the fair use defense.

Fair use is defined in 7 U.S. Code § 107

Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use

In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include—

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

Is it copyright infringement? It depends on how much of the exam is rebuilt. Mostly likely it won't lead to legal action because there are no damages if it's just a few people working together.

You could also ask the question in the Academia stack; they have talked about similar subjects: https://academia.stackexchange.com/questions/28206/are-there-universities-that-consider-it-academic-misconduct-for-students-to-publ

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