Help is at hand for neglected “Orphan Works”
By ucylcjh, on 25 April 2014
What are “Orphan Works”? An example: We own an archive of personal correspondence bequeathed by an individual. An author wishes to quote from the letters in a biography. The letters by the person are still in copyright (we know the date of death), but who inherited the copyright? Was it left to our archive along with the documents? Letters to our subject from others pose further problems: Copyright is defined by reference to the life span of each correspondent and it could belong to a range of people.
These are orphan works: Likely to be in copyright, but the owners either cannot be identified or if identified cannot be found. The danger in re-using orphan works is that a copyright owner will appear who objects, with the possibility of legal action.
Help will be at hand come Autumn 2014 with the implementation of the EU Orphan Works Directive, Directive 2012/28/EU. This will provide a route for cultural organisations to legitimise re-use of orphan works (excluding stand-alone images such as photographs) on web sites by:
Registration with the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market.
Recording on the OHIM database the results of our “diligent search” along with any information on rights owners we have discovered.
A re-emergent copyright owner will be entitled to “fair compensation” from us. The Directive is intended to cover digitisation for web sites, not broadcasting or distribution. No help to our author but it will assist non-commercial projects to make orphan works available on the web.