A short history -
Several years ago Texas A&M set up a short course for Fort Hood to help them pass the Engineering Registration exams. One of the deliverables was a set of tapes recorded during the presentations. Part of the agreement was that these materials remain in the public domain so that we could use them for teaching our students.
We used them for awhile to help our students pass the FE and PE exams. When the technology permitted, we digitized and published them on the web. They have since been available to the public at no cost. Numerous large engineering companies asked if they could download and save the presentations on their computers for their employee's use, to which we agreed. Individual students and engineers from all over the world have also asked and received permission to copy the materials.
The site has since become one of the top sources for reviewing engineering registration materials on earth. If you put "engineering registration" into Google, we usually come up first, even above the NCEES and the National Engineering Board of Registration. They are used both by students to review for their FE and PE exams and by Professional Engineers to satisfy their yearly Continuing Education requirements.
These materials are considered public domain.
EBay sales -
Recently we have gotten notes from people who purchased copies of these reviews over the web, and then found that they were available here at no cost. We really didn't think there was much we could do about this since the materials are public domain. As far as we could tell we couldn't advertise free materials on EBay. We often forwarded the emails we got to the sellers, when we could determine who they were, just to let them know that there were people watching. Had someone tried charging $1000 for them (that's the non-member price for a set of ASCE review materials - F.E. = $349, P.E. = $695), we would have contacted EBay and asked that they be removed, although they would have probably told us to go fly a kite.
Bottom line -
We have no idea how many people are selling these things, but it's not a small number and EBay is just a small part of the market. I am told that they come out of China for distribution all over the world. We have never been a part of selling them, nor have we ever accepted a fee or monies of any kind. As long as the sellers are charging what they feel is reasonable to download the material, burn it on disks, ship it, and a reasonable profit, I doubt seriously if we have any recourse, anyway.
Value added -
Are the sellers providing a service? Actually they are. Anyone with a 56K modem (remember those?) might love to know where they can get the material on a disk. Are their prices reasonable? In my case I wouldn't walk across the hall for what they are getting. I will say that looking at their prices, every one of the dozens of sellers are charging almost the same amount, to the penny. Not one of them is willing to do it for less. Would you like to join in the exorbitant profits? Please be our guest. The more of them that are distributed on disks the less traffic on our servers. Do I hope Wal-Mart joins in? I would love that. Bring the price down to $1.99 and be more popular than Harry Potter. If you really feel strongly about it, you might go to EBay and advertise that for $0.50 you will email them the URL where the materials are available at no cost. But my guess is that EBay will charge you a dollar to do it.
I will say that I am sorry if anyone paid for the reviews without knowing they were available here. Had I known you were interested in them and had a way of contacting you I would have been happy to email you of their availability. However, I really don't feel cheated at all, even having more of these lectures on-line than anyone else who participated in the project. I was paid with Federal money (your taxes) to produce a public domain teaching series now being used by students and engineers all over the world, and think that the taxpayer got a tremendous return on their investment. In today's world that is very satisfying.
I wish you luck on the exam and hope that these reviews will help you pass, regardless of where you got them.
Lee L. Lowery, Jr., P.E.
PS: I have since gotten several emails asking where people could buy the disks, since they were indeed stuck with a 56k modem. Examples of who will supply you with these materials on disk:
(Incidentally, these people really do a nice job of collecting and presenting the materials in a DVD format.)