U of M sues website operator for posting psych test online

The University of Minnesota filed a lawsuit Monday alleging that a website operator violated copyright law by posting a widely-used psychological test online.

The test, known as the MMPI, was developed at the University of Minnesota to assess personality traits and help diagnose mental disorders. It includes more than 500 statements that test takers are instructed to mark true or false. Over the past two decades, the MMPI has become one of the most commonly used psychological tests in the country.

The lawsuit filed by the University and the testing company NCS Pearson, Inc. alleges that a New Zealand-based Web operator named Andrew Dobson illegally posted the statements and software that claimed to interpret the answers to two websites.

Both websites removed the content in response to letters threatening legal action. One of the websites, www.hypnoticmp3.com, posted an unsigned statement addressed to readers.

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"I appreciate the hundreds of emails from psychologists, students, University personnel and members of the public interested in the test," the statement said. "I will continue to provide a list of my products I believe will help you normalize your score with the MMPI but for now unable to offer the test itself."

Dobson did not immediately respond to an email from MPR News seeking comment.

Stuart Hemphill, an attorney representing the University of Minnesota, said the contents of the test need to remain private.

"We are concerned that the test responses are not valid when there has been prior exposure," he said. "If they've seen it before, then the responses can be of questionable validity."

Hemphill said the lawsuit was filed to ensure the websites did not repost the tests. If the websites cooperate, he said, the lawsuit will likely be withdrawn.