Orphan works in the digital era

30-08-2011

Finding a solution to the issue of orphan works, those for which the copyright holder is either unknown or cannot be located, has become an important global issue with the onset of commercial and non-commercial mass digitisation projects. Several Member States, along with third countries such as Canada, have adopted measures to allow the dissemination of such works, based on the principle of licensing. At the same time, the EU has been searching for a cross-border solution. The issue has been highlighted by the copyright limitations placed on the dissemination of works through the European online digital library, Europeana. In attempting to find a workable EU solution, a voluntary approach, focusing on national solutions and stakeholders was first tried. However, despite progress in some respects, a solution providing legal certainty for users and adequate protection for stakeholders was not found. Having made the establishment of a legal framework for orphan works a key issue for the Digital Agenda for Europe, the Commission published a proposal for a Directive, based on the principle of mutual recognition, in May 2011. Stakeholder reaction has been mixed. Some publishers have welcomed the move, whilst cultural organisations have expressed concerns as to the scope of works included. 

Finding a solution to the issue of orphan works, those for which the copyright holder is either unknown or cannot be located, has become an important global issue with the onset of commercial and non-commercial mass digitisation projects. Several Member States, along with third countries such as Canada, have adopted measures to allow the dissemination of such works, based on the principle of licensing. At the same time, the EU has been searching for a cross-border solution. The issue has been highlighted by the copyright limitations placed on the dissemination of works through the European online digital library, Europeana. In attempting to find a workable EU solution, a voluntary approach, focusing on national solutions and stakeholders was first tried. However, despite progress in some respects, a solution providing legal certainty for users and adequate protection for stakeholders was not found. Having made the establishment of a legal framework for orphan works a key issue for the Digital Agenda for Europe, the Commission published a proposal for a Directive, based on the principle of mutual recognition, in May 2011. Stakeholder reaction has been mixed. Some publishers have welcomed the move, whilst cultural organisations have expressed concerns as to the scope of works included.