Tuesday

21st Sep 2021

Brussels tackles 'orphan works' problem in digital libraries

  • The proposal would end the limbo of orphan works (Photo: Leigh Phillips)

The European Commission on Tuesday (24 May) proposed a new law that would permit the digitisation of millions of books, magazine articles, films and audio recordings that currently rest in copyright limbo.

Until now, content that is technically still protected by copyright but whose authors cannot be traced in order to ask permission - content known as 'orphan works' - has not been able to be digitised by the likes of Google and represent one of the biggest hurdles for digitisation schemes. 

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Orphan works for example, according to the commission, amount to for example some 40 percent of what is contained in the British Library.

The new law would permit digitisation of orphan works after a 'diligent search' to attempt to locate the author. 

The commission proposes that those attempting to track down the copyright holder should depend on databases and registries such as the Accessible Registry of Rights Information and Orphan Works, which exists for the book publishing sector.

Brussels calls on stakeholders in other sectors to develop similar central rights information databases in order to streamline the process.

If after this 'diligent search' there is still no rights holder found, the work will then be declared an orphan work, a status that would be recognised across the EU and contained in a registry of such works.

The various digital library initiatives, from Google's efforts to the EU's own Europeana would then be able to post the work online. However, the law is also intended to benefit a range of digital efforts, from museums and archives to film heritage institutions and public broadcasters.

The new rules would also establish clear methods of redress for rights holder to assert their ownership and end the orphan work status.

The EU executive also announced that it hopes to overcome a similar problem - how to digitise out-of-print books.

The commission aims to develop new models for collective licensing for out-of-print works to enable large-scale digitisation, although in this case, the EU executive is still in talks with authors, publishers and collecting societies.

EU kept in dark on ex-commissioner's new lobby job

Phil Hogan, the former European commissioner for trade, was this month hired by US-law firm DLA Piper, where he will work out of the Brussels office. Critics say the hire poses questions on weak EU ethics oversight rules on lobbying.

Fraud against EU dropped 20% last year

There were a total of 1,056 fraudulent irregularities in 2020, with a combined financial impact of €371m. Currently, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Slovenia and Spain do not have domestic anti-fraud plans.

French outrage over US security deal exposes EU frustrations

EU foreign ministers were expected to discuss the implication of a security deal between the US, UK, and Australia on the margins of the UN general assembly. The deal has cast a shadow on the bloc's trade talks with Australia.

Auditors slam EU Commission on green investments

The European Court of Auditors called for more consistent EU action on sustainable finance. The European Commission, by its own estimation, will need to invest €1 trillion a year to transition to a zero-carbon economy by 2050.

Fraud against EU dropped 20% last year

There were a total of 1,056 fraudulent irregularities in 2020, with a combined financial impact of €371m. Currently, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Slovenia and Spain do not have domestic anti-fraud plans.

Auditors slam EU Commission on green investments

The European Court of Auditors called for more consistent EU action on sustainable finance. The European Commission, by its own estimation, will need to invest €1 trillion a year to transition to a zero-carbon economy by 2050.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed

Latest News

  1. First refugee deaths confirmed on Belarus-EU border
  2. EU kept in dark on ex-commissioner's new lobby job
  3. Fraud against EU dropped 20% last year
  4. French outrage over US security deal exposes EU frustrations
  5. Auditors slam EU Commission on green investments
  6. Youth migration 'costing West Balkans up to €5.5bn a year'
  7. Central & Eastern Europe: What Merkel did for us
  8. Netherlands against more rights for rejected asylum-seekers

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us