Orphan Works: Definitional Issues

David R. Hansen

Duke University Libraries; University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - School of Law; University of California, Berkeley - School of Law

December 19, 2011

Berkeley Digital Library Copyright Project White Paper No. 1

This paper outlines responses to two definitional questions that arise in the context of orphan works: (1) exactly what is the “orphan works” problem?, and (2) what is the size of this problem? The answers to these two questions are central to understanding how proposed solutions work to remedy the situation. While the most common descriptions of the orphan works problem focus on unlocatable copyright owners, others have framed the issue in terms of a broader problem of market failure. This paper explores both formulations of the problem. Similarly, the size of the orphan works problem can be viewed from many angles. Rough approximations of the size of the problem for certain types of works (e.g., published monographs) are available, but comprehensive data on the number and value of orphan works do not currently exist for a wide variety of works and the uses to which those works might be put. This paper suggests areas in which further research on these issues is needed.

About this Paper: This white paper is the first in a series from the Berkeley Digital Library Copyright Project, an effort organized by Berkeley Law professors Pamela Samuelson, Jason Schultz, and Jennifer Urban. The project aims to investigate copyright obstacles facing libraries and other like-minded organizations in their efforts to realize the full potential of making works available digitally. More information can be found on the project’s website.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 13

Keywords: Copyright, Orphan Works, Digital Libraries

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Date posted: December 19, 2011  

Suggested Citation

Hansen, David R., Orphan Works: Definitional Issues (December 19, 2011). Berkeley Digital Library Copyright Project White Paper No. 1. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1974614 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1974614

Contact Information

David R. Hansen (Contact Author)
Duke University Libraries ( email )
100 Fuqua Drive
Durham, NC 27708-0204
United States
University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - School of Law ( email )
Van Hecke-Wettach Hall, 160 Ridge Road
CB #3380
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380
United States

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law ( email )
215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

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