Quoting from an unpublished PhD Thesis
By ucylcjh, on 17 April 2015
This query received by the UCL Library involves several aspects of copyright. A researcher, Shilpa, who is planning to publish a book, has visited the Library to consult a PhD thesis. The author of the thesis (Hector) died a few years previously. Shilpa has asked about the copyright implications of reproducing some quotations from Hector’s PhD thesis in her book. A question springs to mind for those familiar with the recent changes to UK Copyright Law:
Could the use of material from the PhD thesis be covered by the new, broader Quotations exception (Section 32 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988)? If the quotations are of modest length and meet the requirements of the Fair dealing test (which applies to Section 32 along with other copyright exceptions) then it may be that the researcher will feel confident in relying on the exception.
However, if there is any doubt about whether it is then, given especially that the book will be commercially published, Pam may decide to reduce her risk by seeking permission.
But then whom should she approach for permission? Copyright would initially have belonged to the author. The thesis is unpublished so it is most likely that copyright remained with the author, now deceased. IP rights can be inherited like any item of property. Unless the author of the thesis made provision for the copyright in his works in a will it has probably been inherited by his family as part of his estate. The task facing Shilpa is therefore to trace Hector’s family in order to find the copyright owner and seek permission.