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UK launches orphan works licensing scheme

The UK has opened up access to more than 91 million copyright works with a new orphan works scheme consisting of an electronic application system and searchable register of licences granted

Alfred Wallis

The scheme, administered by the UK IPO, comes into operation today, and covers works that are protected by copyright but where the rights owners cannot be found. It will enable users, such as museums and libraries, to obtain a licence from the IPO to reproduce the works.

Applicants for a licence must show that they have conducted a diligent search for the right holder and pay an application fee and a market rate royalty to use the work. The royalty will be paid to the right holder if they come forward. More information for rights owners is available here.

The IPO has published guidance on what constitutes a diligent search. It will maintain a register of works subject to an application, licences granted and licences refused.

Today also sees the EU Directive on orphan works transposed into UK law. The Directive was agreed in October 2012, and EU member states have until tomorrow (October 30) to implement it.

The Directive covers works first published in the EU where the copyright is protected but the rights owners cannot be located. It applies to printed works, cinematographic and audio-visual works, phonograms and works embedded or incorporated in other works (such as pictures in a book).

It also applies to unpublished works, under certain conditions.

The picture shows “Houses at St Ives Cornwall”, one of 12 paintings by Alfred Wallis owned by the Tate. Wallis died in 1942 and had no surviving family so the pictures were orphan works until 2012. The picture is on loan to the Middlesborough Institute of Modern Art. The Tate has so far been unable to reproduce Wallis’s unpublished literary works that are held in its archive. Reproduced with permission

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