An orphan work is a copyright protected work such as a book, a film, a musical recording or a work of art for which the creator or rights holders cannot be located or identified.

The European Council recently adopted a proposal on certain permitted uses of orphan works which Ireland must implement by 29th of October 2014. Since Ireland currently has no legislative framework for the use or digitisation of orphan works, this will lead to substantial changes in copyright law.

The proposal envisages the introduction of a new exception to copyright. Once implemented it will enable cultural and heritage organisations to digitise and provide on-line access to orphan works contained in their collections, without the permission of the rights-holder. It will also allow commercial exploitation of the works in order to cover digitisation costs.

Images are by far the largest segment of orphan works and any change to copyright law in this area is particularly relevant to artists and photographers (and their heirs).

IVARO has make a submission to the Department of Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation:

IVARO submission to the public consultation on Orphan Works

Rather than introducing another exception to copyright (and diluting creators rights) IVARO is calling for an orphan works licensing scheme. This would enable museums and archives to licence the use of orphan works and would provide remuneration to help track down the ‘parent’ and provide them with a payment.

Update November 2014

The Orphan Works Regulations, S.I No. 490 of 2014 European Union (Certain Permitted Uses of Orphan Works) came into effect on October 29th. The exception applies to ‘embedded works’ in books, journals and other written works as well as cinematographic or audiovisual works but currently does not apply to stand alone visual works.