The European Council’s adoption of the Directive on orphan works: a first step to address the orphan work issue

GESAC welcomes  final adoption of the Orphan Works Directive by the Council. The decision follows an agreement with the European Parliament at first reading. The Directive aims to allow institutions like museums and libraries to make orphan works available online, for the benefit of the public.

No profit system

The institutions who make orphan works available on the Internet may only generate money to cover the costs of making the works available online.

Rights holders’ integrity upheld 

A work would become ‘orphan’ after a ‘diligent’ search fails to identify or locate the copyright holder(s). Rights holder(s) may then end the orphan status of a work by identifying themselves as the right holder and would  be compensated for the use made of it.

Read the full press release by Gesac, European Grouping of Societies of Authors and Composers below:


Brussels, 4 October 2012, GESAC welcomes the adoption of the Directive on Orphan Works by the Council.

The Directive aims to allow institutions such as museums and libraries acting in their public interest mission to make orphan works available online.

The European Parliament has improved significantly the original text in the search for a fair balance between the interests of the general public in accessing orphan works and the authors’ interests in participating in the economic advantages deriving from the exploitation of their works.

A work would be deemed to be “orphan” after a “diligent” search made in good faith and carried out prior to the use of the work or phonogram failed to identify or locate the copyright holder(s). other countries, sources of information available in those other countries shall also be consulted.

Member States shall ensure that the beneficiaries organisations maintain records of their diligent searches and of the use made of orphan works.  They shall take the necessary measures to ensure that this information is recorded in a single publicly accessible online database established and managed by the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (“the Office”).

The institutions covered by the directive may generate revenues in the course of the uses of orphan works only for the exclusive purpose of covering their costs of digitising orphan works and making them available to the public.

The right holder(s) are entitled to put an end to the orphan status of a work at any time and claim appropriate compensation for the use made of it.

The uses of orphan works should be made with full respect of the moral rights for the authors. In particular, the names of the identified authors and other rightholders have to be indicated in any use of an orphan work.

Véronique Desbrosses, GESAC General Manager, said: “This Directive is a starting point to address the orphan work issue which we believe can be largely solved in the near future: the appearance of new orphan works can be prevented by various means such as identification of works through incorporation of metadata in works, exchange of information on orphan works and promotion of collective management which largely precludes works becoming orphaned”.

Background information on GESAC

The European Grouping of Societies of Authors and Composers (GESAC) represents 34 of the main copyright management societies (authors’ societies) in the European Union, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, administering the rights and remuneration of almost 700 000 authors, composers and writers in a variety of sectors (music, audiovisual, literary and visual and graphic arts) and music publishers. Behind authors’ societies are thus hundreds thousands of authors and composers who are members of these CMS and managing and controlling them.