Last week, the UK parliament enacted legislation directed to the licensing of orphan works. Regulations will be introduced later to address the details of the scheme.
The amendments to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, included as part of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act (See page 75 of the PDF), included under the title “Orphan works licensing and extended collective licensing” provisions for licensing of orphan works:
The Secretary of State may by regulations provide for the grant of licences in respect of works that qualify as orphan works under the regulations.
The regulations must provide that, for a work to qualify as an orphan work, it is a requirement that the owner of copyright in it has not been found after a diligent search made in accordance with the regulations.
The Secretary of State may by regulations provide for a licensing body that applies to the Secretary of State under the regulations to be authorised to grant copyright licences in respect of works in which copyright is not owned by the body or a person on whose behalf the body acts.
The amendments have sparked controversy over their application to online works, including photos uploaded by users to social media sites and the amount of due diligence that will be required until the regulations (See for example, “UK.Gov passes Instagram Act: All your pics belong to everyone now” and “Will Britain’s ‘Instagram Act’ Let Companies Use Your Photos?“) but were more welcomed by libraries and archives holding orphan works (See for example, “Orphan works: No longer in limbo”).
Canada already has legislation directed to orphan works. Section 77 of the Copyright Act provides for an application to the Copyright Board for a license to works where the owner can not be located. The applicant must satisfy the Board that reasonable efforts have been made to locate the owner. In 2012, eight applications were made for such licenses (all successful).