Orphan Works

What is an orphan work?

Sometimes it is not possible to find who owns the copyright to a work. This often happens with older works that are out of print but are possibly still protected by copyright. If you cannot figure out who the owner is or if the work is still protected, this is what is known as an orphan work.

Can I use copyrighted material from an orphan work?

Dealing with orphan works can be difficult. There are times that you really need to get permission in order to use a work. If you can not find the copyright owner to ask for permission, you need to rely on fair use or other exceptions to cover your use of the work. As of now there really is not a viable option for using orphan works when a specific exception does not apply.

Congress has looked at developing a revision to the Copyright Act to deal with orphan works on a number of occasions, but has not yet passed any legislation.  In October, 2012, the U.S. Copyright Office asked for comments from the public in order to further study the situation with orphan works. The Copyright Office is interested in how orphan works are being handled, what problems individuals and groups are having in dealing with them and what possible solutions there may be to the current orphan works situation. They have not released their report yet.

Resources on orphan works:

DISCLAIMER: The information on these web pages and that received from Copyright Services at OSU Libraries and the Health Sciences Copyright Coordinator is not legal advice, nor is either office legal counsel to the university or any members of the university community.