26th Apr 2019

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

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join 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.

Greens commit to air quality 'super commissioner'

Following an investigation into the Dieselgate scandal, the European Parliament recommended a single commissioner should be responsible for both air quality and setting industrial standards. But only the Greens want to commit to carry out that advice.

EU and Japan in delicate trade talks

The Japanese PM comes to Brussels to discuss the first results of the new EU-Japan free trade deal, plus WTO reform - a sensitive topic before he moves onto Washington to face Donald Trump.


Closer EU-Caribbean ties mean greater prosperity for all

The foreign affairs minister of Haiti calls for the replacement EU-Africa, Caribbean, Pacific 'Cotonou' agreement of 2000 to be updated to take account climate change, infrastructure and tourism to help the country transition away from aid-dependence.

Weber vows to block Nord Stream 2 amid 'sue' threat

Manfred Weber, the leader of the centre-right EPP political group, has vowed to block the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The pledge comes amid a new threat from the CEO of Nord Stream 2 to sue the European Union.

News in Brief

  1. EU: Russian citizenship plan 'attacks' Ukraine sovereignty
  2. Deutsche Bank hands over Trump loan documents
  3. UN: Europe is badly prepared for new refugee crisis
  4. Macron to set out 'Yellow vest' counter measures
  5. Italy requests EU action plan for new Libya migrant wave
  6. Far-right party leaders meet in Prague
  7. Priest shames politicians at reporter's funeral in Belfast
  8. Putin offers Russian citizenship to Ukraine regions


All about the European Parliament elections 2019

EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Greens commit to air quality 'super commissioner'
  2. Far-right Facebook networks removed before Spain election
  3. EU and Japan in delicate trade talks
  4. Closer EU-Caribbean ties mean greater prosperity for all
  5. Details of EU Brexit talks with Blair and Soros kept secret
  6. Weber vows to block Nord Stream 2 amid 'sue' threat
  7. 'Next Juncker' must fix EU's corporate power problem
  8. EU want Facebook pan-EU advert fix for May elections

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us