A lecturer in philosophy at a UK university discovered that a company has been selling his recent dissertation as a book online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, and Blackwell’s, complete with a cover.
Richard Elliott, a lecturer at Birkbeck College, University of London, says “I have given no authorization for use of my work.”
He has taken some steps to have the sales stopped. He writes:
At this stage I have made contact with a company called Ingram, whom a legal rep at Waterstones notified me is the distributor for the online listings they (Waterstones) post. I have so far requested Ingram immediately remove this material for the listing, and have also requested information from them about the process by which this infringement has come to pass. They have so far replied with: “We are taking the appropriate action and are in the process of removing the infringing title(s) from our distribution feeds. Please note that 1) if the title was in distribution, it may take time for retailers to remove the available status from their website and 2) many retailers may still keep the title listed, but this does not mean it is available to purchase.”
He also says, “I looked up the so-called ‘publisher’ and found hundreds of what might be similar cases of stolen copyrighted PhD materials.”
Perhaps you should check to see if someone is selling unauthorized versions of your dissertation.
Dr. Elliott is open to suggestions about “how to remove or at least mitigate the online presence” of the unauthorized book, “as well as any possibilities for litigation.”
I contacted a law professor at Cambridge University, Lionel Bently, about this kind of case. He said:
The doctoral student clearly owns copyright and thus has the right to prevent reproduction, distribution of each and every copy and communication to the public (e.g. in ebooks). So there are no doubts that the distributors are infringing and a court would immediately put a stop to this.
Perhaps some legal action by those whose theses are being sold without their permission, or action on their behalf by the universities from which they’ve earned their degrees (and which routinely post the dissertations in online repositories, as Birkbeck had done with Elliott’s) is in order.