EnDOW Report 3: Current Best Practices among Cultural Heritage Institutions when Dealing with Copyright Orphan Works and Analysis of Crowdsourcing Options

Type: Report
Victoria Stobo, Kris Erickson, Aura Bertoni, Flavia Guerrieri
The final EnDOW Report examines the different approaches that cultural heritage institutions in the UK, Netherlands and Italy have taken to orphan works identified in their collections, and explores crowd-sourcing as a potential solution to the challenges presented by diligent search. The report finds a range of practice, from strict compliance to risk-based approaches inside and outside the law of copyright, and a willingness to explore crowd-sourcing from some institutions.
2018 May 1
The abstract provided by the author(s) of this work is as follows: The purpose of this study is to establish the current state of best practices among Cultural Heritage Institutions (CHIs) when dealing with in-copyright orphan works in three countries: the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Italy. A baseline understanding of current practice will provide a benchmark, against which crowdsourcing (or any other proposal) to address the challenge posed by orphan works, can be evaluated. The research team used a purposive sample to approach the ‘Big 3’ national libraries and film archives in each country, typically including the national library, the national archive and the national film archive. The researchers also aimed to include at least one institution from each jurisdiction that had used the EUIPO database, and one institution that digitized orphan works but opted not to use the database. 15 CHIs are included in the study. A semistructured interview format was used to gather qualitative and quantitative data about the CHIs, their collections, their diligent search processes, the results rights clearance for specific digitization projects, their thoughts on the potential of crowd-sourcing as a solution, and their views on the current legislative framework.

Even within a small sample of institutions, there is wide variance in the level of readiness to engage with orphan works across the CHI sector, from expert-level engagement and high-volume use of the EU IPO database, through CHIs who actively avoid digitizing orphan works, to those who digitize orphan works and make them available online on a risk-assessed basis, without using the available legal mechanisms. Rights clearance remains expensive and ranges considerably depending on the nature of the work and the approach taken by the institution. There is continued uncertainty regarding the scope of the Directive and the diligent search requirements, and views on these uncertainties differ across institutions. This suggests that even where high levels of expertise are available, when interpretation of the legislation diverges, different institutions will implement the legislation in different ways, and best practices will diverge accordingly.

The interview data shows that the decision to engage with the EU exception or, in the case of the UK, with the Orphan Works Licensing Scheme (OWLS), was frequently expressed as an economic calculus. To succeed, crowdsourcing must do two things: firstly, offer increased benefits to institutions beyond current practices, and secondly, avoid imposing unreasonable knowledge or integration costs on the institutions involved. Readiness to engage in crowdsourcing diligent search is influenced by these economic factors, but also partially by reputational concerns. Some respondents voiced scepticism that crowd-generated diligent searches would adequately withstand external scrutiny, and preferred to maintain control over decisions about orphan work status for that reason. However, other participants responded positively to the concept, suggesting potential volunteers, and emphasising the positive aspects of rights research and the impact it can have in CHIs and on users.
EnDOW Project
CIPPM Bournemouth University, CREATe University of Glasgow, IViR University of Amsterdam, ASK Boconni University of Milan
Pages (from-to)
United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Italy, European Union
820 KB, 62 pp.
Copyright Information
In Copyright
Rights and Reuse
Cortex Citation:
Victoria Stobo et al., “EnDOW Report 3: Current Best Practices among Cultural Heritage Institutions when Dealing with Copyright Orphan Works and Analysis of Crowdsourcing Options,” Copyright Cortex, accessed July 12, 2020,