October 2014 | Nate Pedersen

New Copyright Law in UK Allows Orphaned Works to be Published

A new scheme in the United Kingdom will allow millions of orphaned artistic works and historic documents to be released into the public domain.  The scheme is intended to provide wider access to about 91 million creative works that have languished for years away from public view because the rights holders were not identified.

The Intellectual Property Office can now issue a special license so that orphaned works can be displayed on websites, in books, and on television.  The new scheme also allows for renumeration for the rights holders if they identify themselves after publication of the material.

The announcement of the new scheme was timed to coincide with the introduction of a new initiative from the European Union called the Orphan Works Directive, which allows cultural institutions to digitize orphan works and display them online.  

In combination, the new schemes will allow greater access to archival records in the UK, about 50% of which are considered orphan works.

Examples of impacted institutions include the Imperial War Museum, which will now be able to display a variety of letters and diaries from WWI, and the National Records of Scotland, which will now be able to publish selections from 150,000 maps and plans considered orphaned.

[Image of the Imperial War Museum in London from Wikipedia]