ACE Orphan Works Survey

The complexity of identifying the rights holder and the impossibility to follow the chain of rights across Europe has resulte in a huge amount of films with unknown rights held in ACE member archives. In 2005, the Danish Film Institute conducted the survey “The Rights Issue” on behalf of ACE to better estimate the extent of the problem and how film archives are dealing with it. The survey showed that approximately 50.000 films are presumed to be orphans.

In the context of the Digital Libraries Initiative, the problem of orphan works has gained importance, since the lack of a European solution providing legal certainty hampers the cultural use of these works. In its communications “Europeana – Next Steps” and “Copyright in the Knowledge Economy” the European Commission decided to examine the orphan works problem in an impact assessment and asked ACE to provide as much information to clarify the dimension of the problem in European film archives.

The actual survey aims to update the data on films with unknown rights and (presumed) orphan works. Since film archives clear rights only when there is a demand, it is obvious that the number of orphan works can only be estimated.

For downloading the ACE questionnaire on orphan works, please klick here.

Summarized results of the survey:

24 ACE archives responded to the survey. The key findings are:

  • 21% of all film works held in the responding 24 film archives (ca. 225.000) may be considered orphans,
  • 45% of those considered orphans (ca. 100.000) could be available through the European Film Gateway (aggregator for the film heritage sector for Europeana) if a legal or pragmatic solution for rights clearing existed,
  • 55% of the requests for the use of orphan works are for cultural purposes, while 44 % of the requests are for commercial purposes,
  • 60% (ca. 135.000) of the orphans held in the respondents’ archives were produced before 1950,
  • 34% of the orphan works are non-fiction films.

The full results of the orphan works survey 2009/2010 are available here.