The authors who accused a website of selling their dissertations against their consent cannot demand the removal of the thesis from the platform as the sale does not constitute copyright infringement, intellectual property experts said.
According to a report from news portal thepaper.cn, there are some 4,000 items tagged as "doctoral dissertations" for sale on kongfz.com, a second-hand book platform, which come from dozens of elite Chinese universities including Tsinghua University, Peking University and Fudan University.
The dissertations are priced from 5 - 1,000 yuan (.73 -5) by different sellers on the website.
"The website removed some works in October 2016 after our complaints. But now they are selling them again," Zhang Ming (pseudonym), who has a doctorate from Tsinghua University, was quoted by thepaper.cn as saying on Wednesday.
Many of the graduates, who said their dissertations are being sold without consent, added that the website is infringing their intellectual property rights and causing psychological and economic damages, said the thepaper.cn report.
"We don't want our dissertations to be spread widely before our original points of view are published in academic journals or books, as there's no way to guarantee other people will not copy these ideas," Zhang added.
When the author hands in the dissertation to university faculties for reviews, or the graduate donates the copies to the libraries or gifts these copies to friends, the writers have already executed their publication rights, Yao Huanqing, a professor from the Law School of the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
If the sellers on the kongfz.com got these copies from the above mentioned sources, then the copies cannot be considered as pirated, said Yao.
Unless the authors can prove that these copies are pirated, they cannot demand the shop owners to stop selling the copies, and the sellers could set the price according to their discretion, Yao said, adding that the owners do not have a duty to explain how they got these copies either.
An employee of the website told thepaper.cn on Tuesday that they will forward the students' complaints to the website's senior management.