Federal judge John P. Fullam has ruled that Multistate Legal Studies Inc., a company that prepares law school graduates for the bar in a number of states under the name "PMBR," illegally copied questions from different bar exams and ordered it to pay more than $11.9 million to the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE).
The NCBE claims that MLSI employees and principals attended bar exams solely for the purpose of learning the questions to include in material that it then sold to prepare students for the exam. Fullham wrote, ""By exposing its students to questions likely to appear on the MBE, [the defendants] undermined the integrity of the bar examination, possibly causing the admission of unqualified applicants. That the victims of this harm are impossible to identify and the injury impossible to quantify underscores the need to deter would-be copyright infringers."
This ruling has consequences beyond bar prep. It is widely believed that test prep companies have employees take tests like the SAT, LSAT, GMAT, etc so that they can "study" the questions and then draft new and better preparation materials. Currently Microsoft is suing Testking.com, alleging that it copies questions off its certification exams. AMCAS sued Princeton Review in 2003 for copying questions from the MCAT for its test prep material.
Obviously if Judge Fullam’s ruling becomes precedent, test prep companies would either have to license the questions in order to use them or would be blocked entirely from using them. Life should remain interesting in the test prep space.