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Durham Theses: Statement on Amazon resale of Durham Doctoral Theses

You may be aware that a large volume of publications authored by Durham University staff and students, both past and present, has recently been offered for sale online as Kindle Books via Amazon.

The majority of these works appear to be PhD theses, but other works also appear to have been affected.

All works in question were listed as authored by “Durham Philosophy”, which has no known connection to the University and is not endorsed by the University.

Please be aware that reproduction of these works on Amazon and the offering of such works for sale is a breach of both the University’s copyright and the terms of use for Durham eTheses and Durham Research Online, from where we believe these works have been taken.

In line with the University’s charitable status to disseminate scholarly research in order to make its content available to support personal research or study, and further educational needs, Durham University has made its theses available to the public. The University does not seek commercial gain from PhD theses in the first instance and, therefore, subject to any restrictions, we make our PhD theses available, free of charge, to the public to read online at Access to our PhD theses via makes it clear to the individual that access and use of the content of our PhD theses is solely for non-commercial purposes.

Since we first became aware of these publications being listed for sale in November 2020, we have been filing Take Down Notices (TDNs) for all reported items, and where copyright was held by the University, to Amazon to have them removed from the website. We are pleased that this has followed. We encourage staff and students past and present who have been affected to contact us with any further cases that they become aware of.

In January 2021, we became aware of a greatly increased number of publications being listed for sale. As a result, on Monday 14 January we wrote to all current staff and students to inform them of the issue and advise them on how to proceed if they had any concerns that their work had appeared and was offered for sale, without authorisation, on the Amazon site.

We understand that some authors feel we could have sought to contact them directly. Our priority was to fully understand the scope of the situation and to work initially with Amazon to have those publications of which we were made aware of by staff removed from the website as quickly as possible. Our relationships with research graduates are deeply important to the University and we have reviewed this approach in light of these recent events; in future we commit to make efforts to contact authors whose work we believe is being used inappropriately as soon as possible.

University Librarian and Director of Library Services, Liz Waller, has shared the following message with our community:

“We are truly sorry for those talented authors whose research has not been shared in the spirit or medium through which we intend to make beneficial research available to the world.

“Durham University is committed to open publishing of research to ensure access and availability of new knowledge for public benefit – both in terms of further academic interest and practical application – but not to the personal detriment of our exceptional research graduates or for the commercial gain of others.

“This is why our Library and Legal teams prioritised an immediate, decisive, and comprehensive response to these unauthorised publications once the full scope of these issues was properly understood.”

“We thank those alumni and friends who have contacted the University for further advice and with messages of support.”

The University takes protection of Durham University intellectual property, including copyright in its works and rights to its trademarks very seriously. Again, we encourage staff and students past and present who are aware of any further Durham PhD theses for sale on Amazon or where you identify any publication over which you have concerns, to please complete the form linked here.