...The Wellcome Library is full of artistic and literary works that are still in copyright....
In practice, most pre-20th century in-copyright materials are considered “ophan works” – items where the current copyright owners are impossible to identify, or trace. However orphan work status may also apply to more recently published works. The British Library, for example estimates that 40% of in-copyright works are orphan works.
Designating an item an “orphan work” does not change its legal status (it is by definition in copyright), and there can be risks in reproducing orphan works. Copyright holders may, quite rightly, demand the destruction of any copies of their works, and the payment of compensation for any revenue lost as a result of the reproduction.
The Wellcome Trust supports an open access policy with regard to its digital materials and aims to make as much as possible available freely online, whilst at the same time respecting copyright law. Orphan works are a difficult area that must be handled with care but which en mass provide a valuable contribution to the research community.
Recognising this value, the Wellcome Library undertakes due diligence to establish whether a 20th or 21st century work is indeed an orphan work. Traceable copyright holders are contacted (sources vary depending on type of material) and asked for permission. If no response is received, and no other potential copyright holder can be identified, the item is considered an orphan work, and mounted online. If a copyright holder did, subsequently, come forward and request that the image be removed, the Library would do so (see the Library’s take down policy)....
Peter Suber at 6/16/2009 01:12:00 PM.
The open access movement:
Putting peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly literature
on the internet. Making it available free of charge and
free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.
Removing the barriers to serious research.