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Proctorio used DMCA to take down a scholar’s vital tweets

A sequence of tweets by one College of Miami scholar that had been vital of a proctoring software program firm have been hidden by Twitter after the corporate filed a copyright takedown discover.

Erik Johnson, a scholar who works as a safety researcher on the aspect, posted a lengthy tweet thread in early September about Proctorio, an Arizona-based software program firm that a number of U.S. colleges — together with his personal — use to watch college students who’re taking their exams remotely.

However six weeks later, Johnson obtained an e mail from Twitter saying three of these tweets had been faraway from his account in response to a request by Proctorio filed beneath the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Proctoring software program isn’t new, however its utilization has skyrocketed due to the pandemic. Extra college students than ever are having to take exams and checks from house, and faculties and universities are counting on proctoring software program to manage the checks. College students have to put in their college’s alternative of proctoring software program, which supplies the examination administrator deep entry to the coed’s pc, usually together with their webcams and microphones, to watch their exercise to identify potential dishonest.

However college students say that proctoring software program is fraught with issues. Vice reported that college students had complained that the proctoring software program they’d to make use of couldn’t acknowledge darker pores and skin tones, and others say the software program requires high-speed web, which many low-income homes don’t have.

Falling foul of any of those checks, whether or not identified to the coed or in any other case, may lead to failing the check altogether.

Hundreds of scholars at colleges in Washington and Florida have already petitioned their colleges to cease utilizing proctoring software program — including Proctorio — citing privateness and safety dangers.

Proctorio, based mostly in Scottsdale, Ariz., says its proctoring software program is privateness pleasant. College students are required to put in its Chrome extension earlier than taking a check, which the corporate says college students can take away as soon as they’re finished.

Not like desktop software program, most Chrome extensions could be simply downloaded and their supply code seen and examined. Johnson did this and tweeted his findings. Three of these tweets described beneath what circumstances Proctorio would “terminate” a scholar’s examination if it detected indicators of potential dishonest — akin to if a scholar “switched networks” or if “irregular clicking” and “eye actions” had been detected. The tweets additionally included a hyperlink to snippets of code present in Proctorio’s Chrome extension, which Johnson posted to code-sharing website Pastebin.

Erik Johnson’s tweets had been withheld by Twitter after receiving a DMCA takedown discover from Proctorio. Screenshot: TechCrunch.

These three tweets are now not accessible on Twitter after Proctorio filed its takedown notices. The code shared on Pastebin can be now not accessible, neither is a duplicate of the web page out there from the Web Archive’s Wayback Machine, which mentioned the online deal with had been “excluded.”

A spokesperson for Twitter informed TechCrunch: “Per our copyright coverage, we reply to legitimate copyright complaints despatched to us by a copyright proprietor or their licensed representatives.”

Johnson offered TechCrunch a duplicate of the takedown discover despatched by Twitter, which recognized Proctorio’s advertising director John Devoy as the one that requested the takedown on behalf of Proctorio’s chief government Mike Olsen, who’s listed because the copyright proprietor.

Olsen is not any stranger to controversy. Earlier this yr he drew ire after posting personal assist chat logs from a scholar, which he later deleted and set his Twitter account to personal following the incident. Proctorio is also suing safety researcher Ian Linkletter, a studying expertise specialist on the College of British Columbia, after tweeting critically of the corporate’s software program.

When reached by telephone, Olsen claimed that Miami College had accepted the corporate’s phrases and circumstances on behalf of Johnson, and that Johnson allegedly violated these phrases when he tweeted concerning the code.

Learn extra on TechCrunch

Following the decision, Proctorio emailed TechCrunch a press release by way of its disaster communications agency Edelman, claiming Johnson “violated Proctorio’s unique rights by copying and posting extracts from Proctorio’s software program code on his Twitter account,” and in response, Proctorio filed the DMCA takedown request “to ask that the content material be eliminated and Twitter eliminated it.”

“Mr. Johnson’s declare that he has the suitable to breed the code as a result of he was in a position to obtain it’s merely not true. No matter his capacity to obtain the information, they continue to be protected beneath the Copyright Act. Additionally, had Mr. Johnson regarded on the information he downloaded, he would have seen the a number of copyright notices within the header of every file that state expressly that the code is owned by Proctorio and that ‘unauthorized copy, show, modification, or distribution of this software program, or any portion of it, could lead to extreme civil and felony penalties, and can be prosecuted to the complete extent permitted by legislation.’ His copy of that code violated Proctorio’s rights, which is why Proctorio requested Twitter to take away it,” mentioned Edelman’s senior vp Andy Lutzky, on behalf of Proctorio.

With assist from the non-profit web rights group the Digital Frontier Basis, Johnson mentioned he has now submitted a counter discover to attraction the takedown.

“That is actually a textbook instance of honest use,” mentioned EFF employees legal professional Cara Gagliano. “What Erik did — posting excerpts of Proctorio’s code that confirmed the software program options he was criticizing — is not any completely different from quoting a e book in a e book evaluate. That it’s code as a substitute of literature doesn’t make the use any much less honest.”

“Utilizing DMCA notices to take down vital honest makes use of like Erik’s is totally inappropriate and an abuse of the takedown course of,” mentioned Gagliano. “DMCA notices ought to be lodged solely when a copyright proprietor has a great religion perception that the challenged materials infringes their copyrighted work — which requires the copyright proprietor to contemplate honest use earlier than hitting ship.

“The appliance of honest use is obvious minimize right here, and this discover by no means ought to have been despatched,” she mentioned.


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