Copyright: Orphan works

Types of orphan works licences: commercial and non-commercial


Under the orphan works licensing scheme, the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) can issue licences for orphan works for use in the UK.

You can apply for a licence for non-commercial use or for commercial purposes. Both types of licences can last for up to seven years.

Non-commercial licences for orphan works

Some uses of an orphan work can fall into the category of 'non-commercial use'. For example:

  • free hand outs for live event, exhibition or similar
  • use in a live event, exhibition or similar
  • in newsletter, bulletin, e-newsletter or e-bulletin
  • in non-commercial promotional material - print and digital
  • digitise and make available online, including on social media
  • preservation purposes
  • use on stage or in performance
  • educational purposes - use in learning/training materials, including e-learning
  • use in thesis/dissertation
  • personal use

A non-commercial licence is £0.10 + VAT per work for all non-commercial uses, significantly lower than for commercial use.

Commercial licences for orphan works

Commercial use covers any uses that make money from the work, such as:

  • selling copies of the work
  • directly charging for access to it
  • merchandising
  • commercial advertising, marketing or promotion activities

For example, use of an orphan work such as a photograph on a poster to promote or market an exhibition where there was a charge would be considered commercial.

This applies whether the charges are intended to make a profit or just cover costs.

The cost of the licence will depend on how many works you wish to license and for what purpose. For example, reproducing an orphan work illustration on a full page inside a printed magazine will cost more than using it on a quarter page.

Costs are based on prices for using a similar non-orphan work in the same way.

You can find out how much the licence fee is likely to be before completing your online application. The fees are calculated and displayed at the start of the process which allows you to adjust your application to something that works for you and your budget.

Find out how to apply for a licence to use orphan works in the UK.