The Orphan Works Provisions of the ERR Act: Are They Compatible with UK and EU Laws?

(2013) 35(12) European Intellectual Property Review 724-740

35 Pages Posted: 10 Sep 2013 Last revised: 11 Aug 2022

See all articles by Eleonora Rosati

Eleonora Rosati

Stockholm University, Faculty of Law

Date Written: September 10, 2013


On 25 April 2013 the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 (ERR Act) received Royal Assent. The ERR Act contains a number of heterogeneous copyright provisions, including one – Section 77(3) – which confers a new power upon the Secretary of State to provide by regulations for the grant of licences in respect of orphan works.

This article analyses the legislative framework for orphan works as resulting from the ERR Act and compares it with the recently adopted Directive 2012/28/EU (the Orphan Works Directive, which the UK must implement – along with all other EU Member States – by 29 October 2014). Although the actual shape of UK orphan works legislation has yet to be fully defined – either under the ERR Act, or the Orphan Works Directive, – this contribution questions whether in principle the ERR Act is compatible with the Copyright and Designs Patents Act 1988, Directive 2001/29/EC (the Information Society or InfoSoc Directive), the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, and the Orphan Works Directive.

This requires consideration of the nature of the regimes embodied in the ERR Act (which purports to adopt a ‘licensing’ approach) and the Orphan Works Directive (which creates an exception), as well as the more general relationship between EU and national laws (in particular the principle of supremacy of EU law and the doctrine of EU pre-emption), so to establish whether, by adopting its orphan works provision in the ERR Act, the UK acted in breach of its obligations under EU law. In any case, it is submitted that the UK has rendered impossible any meaningful implementation of the Directive into its national law. As a matter of practice, there will be no significant advantages to claiming the benefit of the orphan works provisions under the Directive, rather than the parallel provisions under the ERR Act, at least for works that will be exploited within the UK territory.

Keywords: orphan works, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act, Directive 2012/28/EU, Directive 2001/29/EC, Charter of Fundamental Rights, copyright, UK copyright, EU copyright, EU preemption

Suggested Citation

Rosati, Eleonora, The Orphan Works Provisions of the ERR Act: Are They Compatible with UK and EU Laws? (September 10, 2013). (2013) 35(12) European Intellectual Property Review 724-740, Available at SSRN:

Eleonora Rosati (Contact Author)

Stockholm University, Faculty of Law ( email )

S-106 91 Stockholm

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