The following IP guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:
As of exit day (31 January 2020) the UK is no longer an EU Member State. However, in accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK has entered an implementation period, during which it continues to be subject to EU law. This has an impact on this Practice Note. For further guidance, see Practice Note: Brexit—IP rights.
Orphan works are those copyright works where the rights holder is not known or cannot be located and include, by way of example, books, films, music and photographs. The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA 1988) gives the copyright owner exclusive rights in the UK to carry out various acts in relation to a copyright work. Activities set out in the CDPA 1988, such as copying and communicating to the public, carried out by those other than the copyright owner, without permission, may infringe the owner's exclusive rights. Orphan works cannot be copied or published without the permission of the rights holder without risk of copyright infringement which hampers use of orphan books, TV programmes, exhibitions and orphan works on websites.
For further context on where orphan works fit into the area of copyright and associated rights see: Copyright & associated rights—overview.
The orphan works problem has resulted in large quantities of copyright works remaining unused, whether for cultural or
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