Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Factsheet on orphan works and extended collective licensing

The Patent Office has published a Factsheet, Orphan Works Licensing Scheme and Extended Collective Licensing, which should help dispel some misconceptions about how the new law (in the ominously-nicknamed ERR Act) will operate. A good idea: copyright has for many years been more a matter of urban myth than solid legal understanding among many people, and of course the press lead the way in this.

Further details of the system have to await implementing regulations, on which we the public will be consulted (but in which no doubt only Big IP will be listened to).

The Factsheet explains about the criteria which that applicants will have to fulfil before they can use orphan works: a diligent search for the copyright owner, and paying an "up-front" licence fee (surely we are not going to see the expression "up-front" in British legislation?). It tells of the register that the authorising body will be required to keep, explains what a collecting society will have to do before it can operate an extended collective licensing scheme, and assures us that individual rights-holders will be able to opt out of such schemes, without charge. Wow, you won't have to pay not to be a member of something! That is magnanimous.

The Factsheet also says that as far as artistic works are concerned (and here we are talking almost exclusively about photographs - indeed, they are surely the largest category of orphan works) the orphan works licensing scheme is expected to be used for historical photos for which there are no substitutes, not contemporary digital photos found online (from which data enabling the copyright owner to be identified has so often been stripped - making this a rather optimistic-sounding statement).

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