Last year a number of early career academics discovered that their PhD theses, which had been deposited in institutional open access repositories, were being sold for profit via Amazon Seller pages. In this post Guy Lavender, with contributions from Jane Secker and Chris Morrison, discuss the implications of this episode in relation to the protections provided by creative commons licensing for academic work and the extent to which openly published theses constitute prior publication for early career researchers looking to publish their doctoral work as a book.
This story is shocking and gut-wrenching. We have included a link to two related items. Also, see the Publishing Trap board game.
In November a post-graduate student informed our library team that their thesis had been published on an Amazon seller page without permission (NB. Amazon Seller accounts are pages within the Amazon platform where 3rd parties are able to use the Amazon front end to sell their own products (https://services.amazon.co.uk/). The seller is a separate entity from Amazon). The student was especially anxious as they were publishing a book based on their thesis with a commercial publisher in a few days. They notified Amazon (using the link on the seller page) that a copyright infringement had occurred, but Amazon replied that the author was not the owner of the copyright. The student then contacted us in the mistaken belief that their institution, the OU, owned the copyright of their thesis. In fact, in common with many higher education institutions (HEIs), the policy is that the student retains ownership of their thesis.