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On infringements of intellectual property rights

Promoting and supporting intellectual property value


Orphan Works DB

Orphan works are works that are still protected by copyright, but whose authors or other right holders are not known or cannot be located. Music, books, newspaper and magazine articles and films can be orphan.

Orphan works are part of the collections currently held by European libraries, museums, archives, film and audio heritage institutions, and public service broadcasting organisations. The lack of data on their ownership has often constituted an obstacle to their digitisation and making them available online.

Directive 2012/28/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on certain permitted uses of orphan works sets out common rules to make digitisation and online display of orphan works legally possible. Under Article 3(6) of the Directive 2012/28/EU, EUIPO is responsible for the establishment and management of a single publicly accessible online database on orphan works.

More information on orphan works is provided on the European Commission's website.

The Orphan Works Database provides information related to orphan works contained in the collections of publicly accessible libraries, educational establishments and museums, as well as archives, film or audio heritage institutions and public-service broadcasting organisations established in the Member States.



The database covers information about a wide range of works first published or broadcast in the EU Member States:

  • Works in the print sector, such as books, journals, newspapers, magazines or other writings;
  • Cinematographic or audio-visual works and phonograms;
  • Unpublished works under certain conditions
  • Works embedded or incorporated in other works or phonograms, e.g. pictures, photographs;
  • Partial orphan works, i.e. those for which some right holders have been identified and located and have given permission to use the work in relation to rights they hold.


The database enables beneficiary organisations – such as those mentioned above – that want to make use of orphan works in digitisation projects, to have easy access to relevant information about them. These organisations shall also record works in the database that they have identified as orphan during diligent searches.

The database allows right holders to search for orphan works, obtain contact information of the organisations using them, and put an end to their orphan work status. It also provides beneficiary organisations and competent national authorities with reports and statistical data on orphan works that have been recorded in the database.

If you want to use the Orphan works database and you need help or further information, please contact us:

Orphan Works Stakeholder Network:

Competent National Authorities
Competent National Authorities are institutions in EU Member States and European Economic Area (EEA) countries responsible for forwarding information about orphan works to the Orphan Works Database.

Beneficiary Organisations
Beneficiary organisations are publicly accessible libraries, educational establishments and museums, as well as archives, film or audio heritage institutions and public-service broadcasting organisations established in EU Member States and European Economic Area (EEA) countries.

Related Projects

Europeana.eu is an internet portal that acts as an interface to millions of books, paintings, films, museum objects and archival records that have been digitised throughout Europe. The portal provides free access to a wide array of digital content from different types of heritage institutions - libraries, museums, archives and audiovisual collections.

The EU-funded project FORWARD creates an EU wide, standardized system to assess and register the rights status of audiovisual works with a focus on orphans.  FORWARD provides technical solutions for supporting the diligent search for audiovisual orphan works.

Arrow is a tool to facilitate rights information management in digitisation projects involving text and image based works. Arrow infrastructure allows streamlining the process of identification of authors, publishers and other rightholders of a work, including whether it is orphan, in or out of copyright or if it is still commercially available.

EnDOW (Enhancing Access to 20th Century Cultural Heritage through Distributed Orphan Works clearance) is EU-funded project which aims at facilitating the process of rights clearance for European cultural institutions engaged in digitisation of materials contained in their collections. EnDOW aims at designing, implementing and testing a system for determining the “orphan work” status of library, archive and museum material, according to the requirements of the European Directive on orphan works.

Sources of information

This tutorial will introduce you to the Orphan Works Database. It explains the functioning and options of the database, starting from the basic level. This training can be taken from three different perspectives: whether you are a Public Internet User, a Beneficiary Organisation User, or a Competent National Authority User. The tutorial can be accessed from the EUIPO Academy learning portal.

This brochure, which is available in all EU languages, provides basic information about the Orphan Works Database.

FAQ on Orphan Works Database
Frequently asked questions about the Orphan Works Database.

Orphan works brochure ShowHide


Orphan Works Updates
The Orphan Works Updates are a news flash sent regularly to the orphan works network. They contain news from the EUIPO and news from the stakeholders. Feel free to share any relevant news about ongoing digitisation projects or diligent searches in your country: observatory.orphanworks@euipo.europa.eu.

Orphan works survey
A survey about Orphan Works was carried out by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) between April and June 2017. The online survey aimed at gathering information on the use of the Orphan Works Database, as well as identifying what measures could be taken to ensure that the benefits of the Orphan Works system are fully realised. The results of the survey have provided useful information both on what is working well, but also, on what could be improved. In total 120 institutions and individuals contributed to the Orphan Works Survey 2017, with input received from 26 countries (25 EU Member States and 1 EEA country). We invite you to read the results here: Summary Report of the Orphan Works Survey

Diligent searches in the Member States
Directive 2012/28/EU provides a general legal framework for diligent searches in the EU Member States. This information document, compiled by the EUIPO, provides references to diligent search sources available at the national level in EU Member States, together with guidelines for conducting diligent searches (when available). 

Recording orphan works
Beneficiary Organisations send information on orphan works to the competent national authority designated in each Member State, for example the Ministry of Culture or national IP office. In turn, the authorities forward it to the EUIPO. When this process is complete the information becomes publicly available in the Orphan Works Database. The illustrations show the main steps to follow for Beneficiary Organisations wishing to join the database and provide new orphan work records:

Technical Support
EUIPO has developed specific tools to enable Beneficiary Organisations to upload many works at once (bulk upload) or to automate data extraction from a database running on the MARC standard (extraction tool).

  • Bulk upload. The excel file allows Beneficiary Organisations to upload many works at once into the Orphan works database. The file is available to users of the Database holding substantial amount of orphan work records. The bulk upload template is available here
  • Extraction tool. This tool allows Beneficiary Organisations to extract information contained in specific data fields used in the MARC standard and upload this information into the Orphan works database. The tool is available to registered users of the Database upon request.
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