Orphan Works: Causes of the Problem

Berkeley Digital Library Copyright Project White Paper No. 3

11 Pages Posted: 11 Apr 2012 Last revised: 21 Jul 2017

Date Written: April 10, 2012


The orphan works problem can be traced in part to several recent changes in the way copyright law grants rights to owners and in the way that users consume copyrighted works. Broadly defined as the situation where the owner of a copyrighted work cannot be located by someone who wishes to make use of the work in a manner that requires authorization, the problem of orphan works may have existed in theory since the first copyright laws came into effect. But in recent years, at least four developments have exacerbated the problem: (1) the elimination of copyright formalities, (2) the progressive extension of copyright terms, (3) technological advances that allow authors to create and preserve more copyrightable works, and (4) technological changes in the way users access and consume copyrighted works, especially in the shift from print to digital. This paper seeks to familiarize the reader with these developments and the ways that they have brought the orphan works issue to the forefront.

Keywords: copyright, orphan works, digital libraries, formalities, term extension

Suggested Citation

Hansen, David R., Orphan Works: Causes of the Problem (April 10, 2012). Berkeley Digital Library Copyright Project White Paper No. 3, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2038068

David R. Hansen (Contact Author)

Authors Alliance ( email )

2705 Webster St. #5805
Berkeley, CA 94705
United States

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