Saturday, November 1, 2014

Orphan Works

Copyright protected work for which the rights holder(s) is/are positively indeterminate and cannot be contacted, is said to be an Orphan Work. Even when the author is known, but there is lack of sufficient details to contact him or her, the work falls into this domain. A copyright holder’s sudden demise might also lead to the work slipping into the category of Orphan Works, when the inheritance cannot be established.

The fact that the owner of the copyrighted work cannot be reached makes it very difficult to obtain his permission for the use of the work, mere digitization becomes impossible. The use can only be warranted by Fair Use Exceptions.

The respective Governments have taken steps towards extending the accessibility of these works to the general public for these works to maintain their successful circulation and some have also taken steps to guarantee the payment of royalties for use of such works.

The latest news in this regard, is the UK IPO’s licensing scheme for Orphan Works. The IPO intends to maintain a register of works which can be licensed out to Applicants upon payment of royalties. The register will also enable the authors to check if any of their works have been labeled as Orphan Works under the system. The IPO also retains the power to deny the Applicants licenses where the proposed use is deemed to be inappropriate, or on any other reasonable ground.

The EU rules, in place, have already allowed the libraries, museums and universities, among other institutions, to digitize “Orphaned Works” from their respective collections, only after a diligent search has been carried out for determining the owners of the works. It is only time which shall determine the success of the scheme which the UK IPO has intended to move ahead with, and similar frameworks being adopted by other IP regimes across the globe. 

- Bagmisikha Puhan