Orphan Works

The UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) describes orphan works as copyright works where one or more of the rights holders are unknown or cannot be located. An individual who wishes to use a copyright work must usually seek the permission of the rights holder. However this is not possible if the rights holder cannot be found. Under the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, the UK government can licence orphan works for commercial and non-commercial use.

The Copyright and Rights in Performances (Licensing of Orphan Works) Regulations 2014 contains the provisions for an orphan works licensing scheme and states that a diligent search must take place to identify and locate the right holder prior to a licence being issued. Links to the relevant statutory provisions are provided below:

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013:


The Copyright and Rights in Performances (Licensing of Orphan Works) Regulations 2014:


In many cases a diligent search may result in the rights holder(s) of the work being found. ALCS can assist in this process using its database of authorial information. In this way we may be able to determine whether an application for an orphan works licence is necessary.

In 2014, the IPO issued diligent search guidelines for applicants wishing to use works which may be orphaned. This guidance may also be of help to those conducting a diligent search in relation to the EU Directive on certain permitted uses of orphan works. Guidance in respect of literary works, film and sound, and visual art may be accessed here:


For further information please contact ALCS on 0207 264 5700 or email alcs@alcs.co.uk