Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

EU Orphan Works

Source: Network of European Museum Organisations

Network of European Museum Organisations, ‘New database for ‘orphan works’ launched’, 28 October 2014

The database was launched by the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM).

Orphan works are all those works such as books, films, newspaper articles and other creative material that are protected by copyright, but whose owner cannot be found.

There are millions of orphan works in libraries, museums, public broadcasters’ archives and other public institutions in the EU – The British Library, for example, which holds over 150 million items, estimates that up to 40% of creative works in its collections could be orphan works.

But without permission from the author or his heirs, nobody can digitise or disseminate these works. Such prohibition also applies to cultural institutions, which are holding back wider public access to a considerable part of our cultural heritage.

The EU Directive on Orphan Works which entered into force at the end of 2012, is designed to solve this problem by setting out common rules for the digitisation and online display of orphan works which had been first published in the EU. Under the Directive, such works which have been identified as orphan after a diligent search on their authorship may be used by public institutions.

All orphan works must be included in an EU-wide data base the creation of which was entrusted to OHIM. OHIM has now finished building the Orphan Works Database, a single publicly-accessible online platform.

Orphan Works Database

Council of Australasian Museum Directors, c/o Ms Daryl Karp, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House PO Box 3934 Manuka, Australian Capital Territory 2603 Australia, © CAMD 2021
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