Copyright: Orphan works

Orphan works: guidance for right holders


The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) operates an orphan works licensing scheme to license works in the UK where the right holder genuinely cannot be found after a diligent search. In a small number of cases, it can happen that the work is licensed as an orphan but the right holder comes forward at a later date.

The IPO maintains the orphan works register which contains details of all applications for an orphan works license, all licences that have been granted and all applications that have been refused.

If you think your work is on the register, contact the IPO using the contact form on the register. You will need to provide evidence in support of your claim, specifically any relevant documentation showing that you are the right holder. For example:

  • contracts
  • wills
  • copies of relevant correspondence

If the IPO is satisfied that you are the right holder, and your work has been licensed as an orphan, that licence will continue for the remainder of its term, but the IPO will not issue any new orphan works licences that cover those rights within that work.

Any new uses of the work will be up to you, as the right holder, to grant permission in respect of the right you own.

The IPO will update the orphan works register to reflect the fact that the work is no longer orphan or only partially orphan (if there are other right holders who cannot be found or are unknown).

Licence fee payments

If the IPO accept your claim to be the right holder of the work licenced under the orphan works licensing scheme, and where it has been less than eight years since licence was issued, the IPO will pay you any licence fee in respect of that work.

Where there are multiple right holders in a piece of work and you are one of them, you will receive payment of part of the licence fee. You will receive any payment due within two months of being notified that the IPO accept your claim to be the right holder, unless you decide to waive payment.

While a right holder has no right to the licence fee after eight years, the IPO has discretion to pay a right holder who comes forward after eight years have passed. In this case, you will need to tell the IPO why you think that they should pay you the licence fee, even though you are outside the eight year time limit.

As a right holder, you have the right to appeal against a decision the IPO has made. Find out more about orphan works complaints and appeals.