How to clear the rights for an orphan work

How to clear the rights for an orphan work

What’s an orphan work? It refers to published content whose copyright owner is known but can’t be located. Whether orphan or not, works cannot be reproduced without permission from their creator or any other rightsholder unless the work is in the public domain.

Here’s how to get clearance for an orphan work in 3 steps.

1. Search for the copyright owner

The first step is to do the necessary searches to locate the copyright owner and request permission to use the work. Start by contacting publishers, organizations or professional associations that the copyright owner or their heirs are likely to belong to. You can reach out to them even if you don’t know the copyright owner’s name.

Copibec can help you track down a copyright owner. Feel free to contact us.

2. Put together a file for the Copyright Board

If the first step didn’t produce the desired results, you’ll need to get a licence from the Copyright Board. Before completing an application, you need to do a thorough search to locate the copyright owner and then be able to confirm that you did the search.

Keep a record of all correspondence, emails, phone calls, websites consulted or any other document that can prove you’ve taken all reasonable steps to locate the work’s copyright owner.

You’ll also need to describe your project and indicate how and where you’ll be using the work and how you intend to distribute it.

3. Submit an application to the Copyright Board

The next logical step is to submit an official application to the Copyright Board, which will determine whether or not you can be issued a licence to reproduce the work. After you provide all the required information, you should receive a reply within 45 business days. For full details about how to submit an application, refer to the Board’s website.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that the Board will issue you a licence. Here are the main reasons why applications are denied:

- Copyright owner has been located
- Board considers your intended use of the work to be fair dealing or an “insubstantial part of the work”
- Content is in the public domain

If you’re issued a licence, the Board will set the amount to be paid to copyright collectives for the use of the work. The copyright owner will then have 5 years after the licence expires to claim the royalties paid.

Important: Licences issued by the Copyright Board are valid only within Canada.