Monday 2 November 2015

The Adopted Orphans are One Year old

The UK IPO's Orphan Works Register has now been operating for twelve months. Readers may recall that we took a look at its progress at the six month point here, with a follow-up here.

The second six months have seen much less activity. Only 31 new applications have been received, taking the total to 294 for the whole year. However the proportion of successful applications has stayed the same at 83%. As was noted at the six month point, the vast majority of applications have been for still images (229) with written works (47) in second place. However the success rate for written works is much lower at 55%. Sound recordings come in third place (14 of which 12 were granted licences) and musical notation, scripts & choreography, and moving images only having one or two applications for each category.

The Museum of the Order of St John still stands out as the institution with the most applications (179), all of which have been successful. More commercial bodies such as book publishers and a promotions agency have also been among the applicants, and while it would seem that the former might be seeking to re-publish out-of-print books, exactly what the promotions agency intends to do with its licensed works is less clear. Unfortunately they did not reply to our enquiry. All the register tells us is that the intended use is "in a sound/music production that is available as a audio-only product e.g. CD".

Nor is it always apparent why a number of applications have been withdrawn (this terminology appears to be synonymous with 'licence not granted'). But clearly one or two applications seem to have been misconceived from the outset. Take for example application number OWLS000038-1 submitted in July, for the lyrics to the Benny Hill song Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West).  The application notes that Columbia (later Sony Music) who issued the record claim not to hold the copyright, but this is hardly surprising as the Benny Hill estate* or a music publisher is most likely to be the owner of any copyright in the lyrics. One quick call to PRS should have sorted that one out.

Later this month the IPO is due to publish its own review of the first year of the Register's existence, along with a review of how the EU Orphan Works Directive scheme in the UK has fared. This system is available to certain libraries, museums and archives to self-certify that they have conducted diligent searches for copyright owners of works they hold and thus saves them the fees payable for using the IPO system.

* Benny Hill (real name Alfred Hawthorn Hill) died intestate and it was reported that his estate passed to seven nieces and nephews.

1 comment:

john r walker said...

Hi (and sorry to be 'banging on':-).
I would love to know how much it has really, in total, cost the IPO to set up and run their Orphan works register. Surely there is no way that the admin fees paid for issuing licenses to a total of about 242 successful applicants could have even remotely covered the fixed 'flag fall' office costs of their scheme.

The costs would have to greatly exceed the, marginal, benefits:

From memory the Museum of the Order of St John has paid a total of roughly 500 pounds in admin and license fees, and it accounts for about 70% of all successful applications for a license, so the admin and license fees paid surely cannot be much more than about 1000 pounds, all up.

Surely it is obvious that in the case of manuscripts and photos etc in museums and libraries dedicated to things like "ancient religious military Order[s]" etc, that Fair Use would be more cost efficient, and hardly a threat to civilization as we know it?