Monday

13th Jul 2020

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 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.

Agenda

EU 'in-person' summit plus key data privacy ruling This WEEK

EU leaders will meet in Brussels on Friday and Saturday to discuss in person the EU's long-term budget and recovery plan to respond to the crisis. Meanwhile, the future of the EU-US Privacy Shield might depend on this week's ruling.

Michel lays out compromise budget plan for summit

Ahead of expected tense discussions next weekend among EU leaders, European Council president Charles Michel tries to find common ground: the recovery package's size, and grants, would stay - but controls would be tougher.

News in Brief

  1. Croatia opens for US tourists, defying EU ban
  2. Poll: only 61% of Germans would get Covid-19 vaccine
  3. UK to spend €788m on new UK-EU border control system
  4. Berlin wants first use of EU cyber sanctions on Russia
  5. Erdogan warns neighbours over hydrocarbon reserves
  6. Bulgaria: political crisis amid anti-corruption protests
  7. Pope and Turkish-German leader join Hagia Sophia protest
  8. France and UK create joint migrant intelligence unit

Column

The opportunistic peace

This will be the most selfish act in recent economic history. It will burden future generations and by no means make the weakest member states better off.

Opinion

On toppling statues

The internationally-acclaimed author of King Leopold's Ghost, Adam Hochschild, writes on Belgium's problems with statues, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  3. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  5. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis

Latest News

  1. Poland's EU-battles to continue as Duda wins tight vote
  2. EU 'in-person' summit plus key data privacy ruling This WEEK
  3. Let's have positive discrimination for EU stagiaires
  4. We need to do more for our small and medium-sized enterprises
  5. Romania's virus surge prompts queues and new worries
  6. Michel lays out compromise budget plan for summit
  7. Border pre-screening centres part of new EU migration pact
  8. EU 'failed to protect bees and pollinators', report finds

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us