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Digital libraries and Copyright: EU copyright database could help reform the laws on orphan works

22 March 2011
Source: The Register

The EU’s project ARROW (Accessible Registries of Rights Information and Orphan Works towards Europeana), designed in 2008 to identify the copyright status of European works will be extended to cover not just print texts but also multimedia material, said participants of the press conference recently held in Brussels.

ARROW is a project of a consortium of European national libraries, publishers and collective management organisations, also representing writers through their main European associations and national organisations. ARROW aims in particular to support the EC’s 2010 Digital Library Project by finding ways to identify rightholders, rights and clarify the rights status of a work including whether it is orphan or out of print. This will enable libraries as well as other users to obtain information on who are the pertinent rightholders, which are the relevant rights concerned, who owns and administers them and how and where they can seek permission to digitise and/or make available the work to user groups. The project also seeks to enhance the interoperability between sources of rights information (i.e. exchange of information) held by rightholders, RROs and other collective management organisations, agents, libraries and users. Solutions envisaged by the venture include the establishment of systems for the exchange of rights data, the creation of registries of orphan works, information on or registries of works out of print.

Head of the ARROW project management team Piero Attanasio has told a press conference that the scheme, which was due to end in May, has been extended. It will become ARROW Plus and will work with bodies in 17 EU countries to examine how its system can apply to copyrights in visual material.

Neely Kroes, who is the vice-president of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda, has said that this expanded system could be placed at the heart of the commission's reforms of laws surrounding orphan works, which are cultural products whose copyright owner cannot be identified. The Commission is working on a directive that it hopes will ensure that orphan works are made available in a digitised format for people to use.

"In the medium-term, it could cover all European print works (books, magazines, etc) in the EU, and afterwards also photographic and audiovisual works," Ms Kroes said. "ARROW should become a one-stop shop for determining, easily and quickly, with full legal certainty, whether a work is orphan or not, out-of-distribution or not, and so on”, she added.