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Spare Rib and the threatened EU Orphan works exception

By Chris J Holland, on 26 February 2019

Back in October we blogged about the threat posed to the the EU Orphan works exception by a no deal Brexit and the LACA campaign to highlight the issue.

A recent article in the Guardian highlights a concrete example of the effect of the removal of the exception, namely the case of the digital archive of content from Spare Rib, a ground-breaking feminist magazine. The Spare Rib archive has been made available online by the British Library (BL) using the Orphan works exception to good effect.

In the event of a “no deal Brexit” however the BL, in common with other cultural institutions, will no longer have the benefit of this exception simply because it can be enjoyed only by institutions in the EU (and the EEA) which, obviously, will no longer include the UK. Orphan works will no longer be covered by the exception and UK institutions such as the BL will be obliged to take down this very significant content to avoid the risk of copyright infringement.

The current process of vetting applications for orphan work status, moreover, is an EU process, run by EUIPO. The UK IPO could in principle establish a UK procedure to replace that run by EUIPO for the benefit of UK institutions, but seems to have no current intentions of doing so.  You can read what the IPO has to say about copyright and a no deal Brexit  here

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