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I have a Ph.D thesis obtained from ProQuest. I would like to reuse some of the figures from it in my own work. Every page of the PDF contains this message on the bottom:

Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

How can I find out who is the copyright owner? It is not listed anywhere in the PDF, and I can find nothing useful on ProQuest's website.

The thesis is from the 70s, and the author has not been academically active since then. Tracking him down seems unlikely.

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    An uneducated guess: the writer of the thesis still holds the copyright. Even if not, she/he is your source for a similar figure that can be shared with permission. – Greg Mar 18 '15 at 6:22
  • @Greg - see my edit. – Gimelist Mar 18 '15 at 6:40
  • This is unfortunate. Can you contact the university, maybe they have a policy about copyrights of PhDs that people wrote there... – Greg Mar 18 '15 at 6:44
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The original author is probably the copyright holder.

Two other options: it is possible that it is the university/research institute (see, eg, this MIT policy for an example) but this is relatively unusual; alternatively, if it was done with industrial sponsorship, the company might own copyright. If either were the case, though, I'd expect to see some kind of indication on the thesis itself. Absent a clear hint (eg an existing university policy, a commercial-looking funder) that someone else would hold copyright, I'd work on the assumption it's the author.

You can try and trace them - this is not quite as impossible as it sounds, as the university alumni office may well have contact with them and be able to pass on a letter. If you have tried and failed, you might still have the option of using them without permission and an apologetic footnote...

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