IPO launches new 'orphan works' licensing system

Out-Law News | 31 Oct 2014 | 2:47 pm | 1 min. read

Businesses wishing to make use of copyrighted works that have no known rights holder can now obtain a licence allowing them to use the material without infringing UK copyright laws under a new licensing system launched by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO).

The material, so-called 'orphan works', will be able to be used for commercial and non-commercial purposes by organisations under the new licensing regime. The right to use orphan works will only be granted if organisations cannot find the owner of those works after conducting a 'diligent search' for them, in line with guidance published last month by the IPO.

"The IPO will maintain a register of works that are subject to an application, those that have been granted a licence and those refused a licence," the IPO said. "The register will enable right holders, if they so wish, to check whether any of their works are being considered as potential orphans or have been licensed for use after the diligent search. However, the onus for finding right holders is on the potential licensee."

Use of orphan works under the licensing regime will be subject to a "market rate" fee which the IPO said would be used to compensate rights holders for the use of their work if they come forward to claim ownership of rights in orphan works.

The IPO has the power to refuse to grant an orphan works licence to applicants if "in its reasonable opinion, a proposed use or adaptation is not appropriate" or "on any other reasonable ground". In considering whether a proposed adaption of an orphan work is appropriate, the IPO could consider "whether the proposed adaptation constitutes derogatory treatment of the work".

"The UK’s trailblazing orphan works licensing scheme enables access to a wider range of our culturally important works," Baroness Neville-Rolfe, minister for intellectual property, said. "The scheme has been designed to protect right holders and give them a proper return if they reappear, while ensuring that citizens and consumers will be able to access more of our country’s great creations, more easily."

In France, a new law has also been proposed to reform the orphan works framework in the country. The proposals seek to implement the EU's Orphan Works Directive.

The EU rules allow libraries, museums and universities, among other organisations, to digitise works from their collections that have become 'orphaned', subject to a diligent search being carried out for the owners of those works. The EU rules are not as broad as those contained in the UK regulations as they only permit non-commercial copying of orphan works.