New “orphan works” rule in UK makes millions of creative works available for public display


One of the most nagging problems in copyright law is what to do about so-called orphan works: artistic creations that have no known owner, but that nonetheless can’t be shared or displayed because doing so could lead to a punishing lawsuit. This situations forces museums and libraries to keep parts of their collection off the internet, and bars public access to millions of cultural works.

Fortunately, the British government has finally found a solution that it says will result in more than 91 million works becoming available for the first time.

The solution takes the form of a licensing scheme that lets anyone pay a token amount (reportedly ten pence) into a trust, and in return get permission to use an orphan work. In the unlikely event the author of an orphan work comes forward, they can assert control of the work and receive money from the trust.

As the Independent reports, the scheme will let institutions like the…

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