Copyright Orphan Works

Orphan works are creative works or performances that are subject to copyright for which the rights holders are unknown or cannot be found.

Individuals or businesses can search the Orphan Works Register to find details of copyright works that they may wish to licence for commercial or non-commercial purposes. A link to the register is here:

Once you have found an orphan work then you need to apply for a non-exclusive licence to use the work. A licence for an orphan work lasts 7 years (which is renewable) and applies only in the UK and fees are £20 for the first work and prices decrease per work afterwards.

Successful Applications

If your application is successful, the IPO will ask you if you want to proceed with all the works and uses you have requested. You’ll be able to remove any works or uses from the application at this stage. If you want to add works or uses, you’ll need to submit a new application.

IPO will also send you the terms and conditions that apply to the licence.

If you want to go ahead, you’ll now need to pay the licence fee. The fee will vary depending on the types of orphan work you want to use and what you want to do with them.

Refused Applications

The IPO may refuse your application for a licence if they believe:

  1. a proper diligent search hasn’t been made
  2. your proposed treatment, adaptation or alteration of the orphan work is derogatory, see paragraph 2.21 of the guidance
  3. it wouldn’t be in the public interest to issue a licence

The IPO is working hard to find owners for the orphan works and in the absence of that, the IPO wants the works that have taken skill and effort to create to be used and not forgotten.

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