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Orphan Works Licence – scheme now live

A scheme to enable the use of so-called "orphan" works has now been established.

The move opens up a raft of potential material for people working across the creative sector.

What are “orphan” works?
Orphan works are creative works or performances that are subject to copyright, such as pictures, photographs, film or other digital content, for which one or more of the copyright owners cannot be located.

The result is that someone wishing to copy and use an orphan work cannot safely obtain the permission of the rights holder (such as a broadcaster, creator or publisher).

The orphan work licence has been introduced to enable this large amount of locked-up creative content to be put to good use.

How does the licence scheme work?
Applying for a licence under the scheme is a relatively simple process but care must be taken.  Some important points to bear in mind about the licences are:

  • that they apply only in the UK
  • they are non-exclusive
  • they can last up to seven years and
  • they can be renewed.

Should you decide to apply for a licence then a number of preliminary steps are required, such as checking whether the use of the work is subject to a copyright exception and the carrying out of a diligent search for the copyright holder or holders.

How much will a licence cost?
It is hard to give a definitive answer on the cost of an application as the price of applying is split into a licence fee, dependent upon how many pieces of work are to be licensed, the work itself and it proposed uses; and an application fee, paid on application, which is non-refundable.

Upon receipt of an application the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) will review it and let you know their decision; if successful the licence fee will be paid at this point.

How can I use a licence once I obtain one?
Having successfully acquired a licence, any future use of the licenced work must still be accompanied by the contact details of the IPO, the orphan works application number and a credit to the right holder if their name is known.

For those whose applications are refused, the IPO will provide justification and there is a three tier process of appeal.

If you are concerned that your own work may be the subject of an orphan works licence application or your work has already been licensed, then you are advised to contact the IPO.

How can I find out more about this?
For more information about copyright in digital media and orphan works, please contact Bill Goodwin.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

This page may contain links that direct you to third party websites. We have no control over and are not responsible for the content, use by you or availability of those third party websites, for any products or services you buy through those sites or for the treatment of any personal information you provide to the third party.

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