A provider of preparatory courses for students aiming to pass the UCAT medical and dental tertiary entry tests has been ordered to pay court costs after being found guilty of plagiarising a competitor's practice tests and answers.
The case has shed light on the sometimes cut-throat competition for students among practice test providers, in which student internet forums can become battlegrounds and where some operators allegedly aren't above anonymously promoting themselves while denigrating competitors.
The UCAT, developed by the Australian Centre for Educational Research, is widely used for school leaver entry into medical and dental courses.
There is a lively business in marketing practice tests to students, although ACER's chief executive Geoff Masters said these were of limited benefit because it was "difficult to teach directly" for the UCAT.
Two practice tests, Icarus and MedEntry, are at the heart of a bitter Federal Court copyright dispute dating back to 2004.
Justice Susan Kenny found that Dallas Gibson, through his Icarus College business, plagiarised 800 questions and answers from rival MedEntry.
The court dismissed Mr Gibson's counterclaims of plagiarism and defamation against MedEntry. In awarding costs last month, Justice Kenny said Mr Gibson's conduct had been "reprehensible" and that there was a need for deterrence.
Mr Gibson had claimed that he bought the questions on a computer disk from an RMIT sociology student, Minh Van Tran, for $1500 in cash and was unaware they were pirated from MedEntry.
He then claimed that 160 of the questions had been plagiarised by MedEntry from his tests.
But Mr Tran could not be traced and the original disk had apparently been discarded, which left the judge unconvinced by Mr Gibson's claims he wasn't aware the questions were pirated.
The judge wondered whether Mr Tran had existed at all and dismissed Mr Gibson's counterclaim against MedEntry as "unmeritorious" and "fabricated."
In her decision, Justice Kenny accused Mr Gibson of "simply making up much of his evidence as he went along in order to support his copyright infringement cross-claim."