Friday, 14 September 2012

EU-wide online access to orphan works soon possible

Certain photos, films, books and other artistic works are protected by copyright even though their right holders (authors) cannot be found. The gap in the current legislation is that no rules were made for when the right holder is nowhere to be found or not known (so-called: 'orphan works') and his permission for making use of the work cannot be obtained. As a result, many European libraries contain collections of such orphan works that they may not, e.g., display online without obtaining an author's permission. As a researcher it is especially frustrating to not have easy, online access to sources collected in another country of the EU where you are located. It's a square circle that stands in the way of sharing cultural heritage among Member States. The EU intends to enable digitisation of these works and also make it possible for EU citizens to access such orphan works from anywhere in Europe.

The new Directive on certain permitted uses of orphan works (see: text of the proposal) agreed on yesterday by the Members of the European Parliament will make it easier for public institutions to search for and use orphan works. If a 'diligent' and made in good faith search does not reveal a copyright holder, then the work may be deemed to be an 'orphan work'. Orphan works will be then made public in the EU, for non-profit purposes only, through digitisation. If at any time the right holder would be identified, he would be entitled to withdraw the 'orphan work' status and to claim appropriate compensation, taking into account actual damage done to author's interests, for the use made of it in the meantime.

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