Law School Discussion

Cheating on the LSAT

zpops

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Re: Cheating on the LSAT
« Reply #30 on: April 19, 2004, 12:49:30 AM »
okey dokey. I guess i'm missing the irony though. To me it seems natural that any group would find it highly interesting to discuss the "cheaters" among them - how they operate, what their tactics are, and how frequent their activities are. Guess I'm missing the twist/reversal in meaning/ideas that would constitute irony.

Cops chase robbers. Cops like to write/read crime novels. Irony?  ???

This reminds me of the Alfred Hitchcock film "The rope".  In the movie, one character plots the perfect murder of another person, as a purely academic exercise, and I think this is no different.  It's fun to try and find a way to "beat the system", even if we'd never even dream of really doing so.

xray - First of all, thanks for pulling the quote.  I think your US mint analogy holds up very well in this context, since LSAC, much like the mint, constructs its policies towards the goal of preventing cheating.  Releasing any information about the specific methods used to prevent cheating would be akin to the mint divulging what degree of deviation in a bill "flags" it for inspection.  In either case, the group's policy is defeated by divulging any details, no matter how seemingly benign they may be.  The information released before does not pose the serious breach that a statement of the ratio of correct answers to erasures needed to flag a tezt would constitute, but it is a breach all the same.

ttiwed

Re: Cheating on the LSAT
« Reply #31 on: April 19, 2004, 01:15:50 AM »

you must admit the irony in a thread devoted to defrauding the device by which people actually become attorney's (a profession that supposedly requires uncompromising ethical behavior).

i would say that i fail to see the irony in this thread. my dad's neighbor is an attorney in private practice and he even admits that everyone in his firm is basically a crook. the reputation of lawyers in american society is far from that of a saint's. i am by no means advocating that we, as future attorneys, condone such unethical behavior, nor should we perpetuate negative stereotypes of lawyers by engaging in it. however, this topic, as well as a lot of the others on this message board, are initiated in a light-hearted nature. i have no plans on cheating on the lsat, nor do i believe any other members plan to as well. i just started this thread as a substitute to the typical generic "i hate logic games" or "how long should i study for the lsat" threads that we usually see in the "studying for the lsat" section of this board. i had no idea this topic was going to start such controversy  :-\

dta

Re: Cheating on the LSAT
« Reply #32 on: April 19, 2004, 01:50:31 AM »
hey xray, sounds like you know a lot more than me about the legal definition of proprietary (of course, that's not hard to accomplish). but i guess what confuses me is this. Why would my company ask me to sign an NDA promising not to reveal the details of algorithms used in our code if such information is already considered proprietary by default since it is private info not publicly known? If what you say is true, then having me sign this NDA was completely superfluous and I can't figure out why a company would want to pay a lot of money to carry out superfluous activities. And further, why didn't this NDA just make a blanket statement "I, the signee, promise not to divulge ANY information about the flagship product to anyone outside the company that is not already publicly known ". That would have been a lot easier than zeroing in on some key kinds of information I am not supposed to disclose.

The impression I got was that although the company knew it had a right to force me into silence regarding clearly proprietary info like algorithms used, they knew they couldn't force me into silence about other private information which, though private, was completely inconsequential to the company (e.g. one of the computers used to type in some of the code had a Logitech brand mouse - that's private - nobody knows that - but the company couldn't possibly be injured by that becoming publicly known).

Anyway, maybe i'm mistaken but the impression i've gotten from my (limited) dealings on the issue is that "proprietary", whatever its full meaning is, is a complicated concept that resists the simplistic equation with "private information not publicly known". Were it really that simple, there would simply be no reason for a lot of the complexity I see surrounding the issue.

SpeakerDave

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Re: Cheating on the LSAT
« Reply #33 on: April 19, 2004, 06:31:57 AM »
I think the NDA is specific, but probably has wording like "you shall not disclose information including but not limited to...."  By giving examples, it makes it easier for everyone to understand the common types of information thou shall not share.  On the other hand, anything that goes on in that company could be considered private and not to be divulged.  If using a Logitech mouse violates a trade agreement to only use Microsoft brand mouses (mice?), then divulging the infraction could harm the company. 

A company can use just about any bit of information about a competitor.  Is it likely that the lady in the bar is a corporate spy secretly eliciting information...I doubt it.  But, if she is, and you tell her something that becomes an issue, then you have violated your NDA.  Your employer may take action...if they can trace the leak back to you. 

Also, what kind of woman are you bragging to when you tell her about finding a bug?  If that kind of information impresses her enough to want to go home with you, I don't want her to come home with me.  It's probably more impressive to tell her that you work very hard on technical related projects that are so secret you can't really talk about them until the product release and clearance from the VP of development.  Or some other BS like that. 

In business...keep your mouth shut!

Re: Cheating on the LSAT
« Reply #34 on: April 19, 2004, 08:42:29 AM »
Why would my company ask me to sign an NDA promising not to reveal the details of algorithms used in our code if such information is already considered proprietary by default since it is private info not publicly known?

Suppose there was a leak that could be traced. What's going to be the response? "I didn't know that was confidential." By reiterating what materials are confidental in an NDA, a company makes its workers more aware, more accountable and less able to claim ignorance.

Quote
The impression I got was that although the company knew it had a right to force me into silence regarding clearly proprietary info like algorithms used, they knew they couldn't force me into silence about other private information which, though private, was completely inconsequential to the company (e.g. one of the computers used to type in some of the code had a Logitech brand mouse - that's private - nobody knows that - but the company couldn't possibly be injured by that becoming publicly known).

As an employee, you have no rights to decide which information is "inconsequential". The information is owned by the company. See internalmemos.com for other examples of non-technical proprietary information.


Quote
Anyway, maybe i'm mistaken but the impression i've gotten from my (limited) dealings on the issue is that "proprietary", whatever its full meaning is, is a complicated concept that resists the simplistic equation with "private information not publicly known". Were it really that simple, there would simply be no reason for a lot of the complexity I see surrounding the issue.

Technology companies tend to be overly neurotic about NDAs, that's true. Jerry Yang of Yahoo has a longstanding policy of not signing NDAs for pitch meetings. Not because he wants to steal ideas -- the opposite, he doesn't want an idea HE might have in the meeting to become confidential property of the other party by virtue of their NDA.

Re: Cheating on the LSAT
« Reply #35 on: April 19, 2004, 05:21:41 PM »
Technology companies tend to be overly neurotic about NDAs, that's true. Jerry Yang of Yahoo has a longstanding policy of not signing NDAs for pitch meetings. Not because he wants to steal ideas -- the opposite, he doesn't want an idea HE might have in the meeting to become confidential property of the other party by virtue of their NDA.

That's badass.

dta

Re: Cheating on the LSAT
« Reply #36 on: April 19, 2004, 08:28:13 PM »
Cool. Those are all good points. But I guess I'm more confused now about what "proprietary" means than before. I may be mistaken, but it *seems* to me that one of the underlying concepts that supports a company's right not to have their proprietary information divulged has something to do with ownership. The reason I can't talk publicly about the algorithms I came up with is because the company owns them, not me.

However, if one merely equates "proprietary" with "private information" then it seems the following dilemma is upon us:

Company A comes up with algorithm X. A makes no attempt to copyright or patent X in any way. Company B independently comes up with algorithm X. B also makes no attempt to copyright or patent X in any way. Information relating to X is not publicly known. It is privately known only within A and B. Therefore, algorithm X is proprietary information owned by A and X is also proprietary information owned by B.

Well, maybe that's not a prima-facie dilemma, but it sure seems odd that both A and B, by virtue of the two of them accidentally having private info about the same entity X, have proprietary ownership of X.

To be honest, b/c of these and many many more questions like these I've never had a clear understanding of what the heck "proprietary" means.

SpeakerDave

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Re: Cheating on the LSAT
« Reply #37 on: April 19, 2004, 09:08:20 PM »
The issue here is what can an employee disclose, or rather what he/she cannot disclose.  Each NDA is going to be unique in this matter.  Commonly, an NDA will define information that is to remain private as including proprietary information, but also any other details of the business operation.  i.e. EVERYTHING!

I wish I had an NDA handy, I'd post it.  When I get a chance, I'll try to find one that I had as an employee at an e-commerce company.  It is probably a breach to post the NDA...

Here is Merriam Webster's definition of Propprietary as an adj.

1 : of, relating to, or characteristic of a proprietor <proprietary rights>
2 : used, made, or marketed by one having the exclusive legal right <a proprietary process>

That sounds fairly general to me.  #2 especially seems like an umbrella.  Regardless of how the word is defined, the NDA is what is going to "hold water" in any legal proceeding.  If the NDA says that only patented chemical formulas are to be kept secret, then that's it!  If the NDA says that anything that happens in the course of business is a secret, then it must be kept secret. 

Now, if Zpops' uncle signed an NDA, then I'd say he's probably told Zpops a little too much informaiton.  Is that information harmful to the LSAT company, and the company manufacturing the grading machinery?  That's for someone else to decide. 

However, I'm sure that the deviant test taker looking for some advantage could devise a plan to use zpops disclosure to some advantage.  Likewise, a competitor building a grading machine could use zpops information to build a better machine.

Personally, and I'm saying this only to get a rise out of Zpops...I think zpops disclosure was all BS. It smells like it anyway.

Re: Cheating on the LSAT
« Reply #38 on: April 19, 2004, 10:12:17 PM »
Company A comes up with algorithm X. A makes no attempt to copyright or patent X in any way. Company B independently comes up with algorithm X. B also makes no attempt to copyright or patent X in any way. Information relating to X is not publicly known. It is privately known only within A and B. Therefore, algorithm X is proprietary information owned by A and X is also proprietary information owned by B.

dta, read up on basic copyright. Your example happens all the time. But you can't copyright an idea, only the manifestation / implementation of it. Also, copyright exists as soon as the work comes into being. So there's no contradiction.

It would be more proper to say company A has their manifestation of X, call it A(X). And B has B(X). A(X) and B(X) may be functionally identical as algorithms, but with respect to copyright they are independent manifestations of an idea and thus indepedently copyrightable. They are property of each respective company and could be claimed proprietary. X itself is an idea, it belongs to no one.

Suppose one day A and B meet and discover they both have X and one sues the other. This also happens all the time. To win a copyright infringement you have to show that the infringing party HAD ACCESS to your implementation of the idea. If B never saw A(X), then A has no grounds that B(X) infringes.



dta

Re: Cheating on the LSAT
« Reply #39 on: April 19, 2004, 10:45:04 PM »
xrayspec - I was deliberately eliminating copyright/patents out of the entire hypothesis altogether so that "proprietary-ness" would be the only issue clouding the matter. I was worried you would bring up issues of copyright/patents (which i'm not particularly interested in), so that's why i specifically mentioned in my hypothesis that neither A nor B pursues any copyrights/patents with regard to X. The only issue germane is "proprietary". So, though I fully admit to not knowing much of what i'm talking about in this matter I don't think reading up on copyright law is necessary to understand/discuss the hypo I present. Though I will grant that i should read up on real legal discussions concerning exactly what "proprietary" is. But heck - that can wait for law school!  :)

btw SpeakerDave, i tried to find the NDA i signed. I think I've thrown it away somewhere along the line. Lord only knows now what I actually agreed to!!!  :)

Anyway, the main point i was trying to make from the beginning is simply this. What might appear to be "proprietary" in the lay sense of "extremely valuable information to the company that they worked hard to get and yearn to preserve privately for themself" might not really be so if you know more about the subject. For example - public/private key encryption. If my company is sending secret messages to our office in London and using a public/private key method of doing so and the offices here in the US are in possession of the public key but this key is private non-public information, it may seem to the layperson a gross act of negligence to "reveal" to the world at large the encryption key the US office is using to send encoded messages to London. But, anyone who understands public/private key encryption knows that such a "revelation" of the secret encoding key in no way whatsoever harms the secure transmission of information.

My whole point is simply that security systems are often designed so that the 'enemy' is assumed to have perfect process knowledge of the security system. That is, it is assumed that the enemy knows everything about the process i'm using to ensure security. The key to a good security system is its ability to be effective in spite of such perfect knowledge on the part of the enemy.

It seems reasonable to me that test makers might also work under such a presumption of perfect process knowledge on the part of the enemy (i.e. the would-be cheater). As such, divulging process information would be innocuous. But, being a lay-person not knowing much about the details of standardized testing I could make no definite assessment about whether or not the info zpops revealed was harmful or completely harmless process info the enemy is already expected to know.