Detailed guide: Copyright: orphan works

Intellectual Property Office

September 7
16:25 2020


Orphan works

Orphan works are creative works or performances that are subject to copyright - like a diary, photograph, film or piece of music - for which one or more of the right holders is either unknown or cannot be found.

An orphan works licence:

  • applies only for use in the UK
  • can be for commercial or non-commercial use
  • is non-exclusive (not restricted to a single licensee)
  • can last up to 7 years
  • will be able to be renewed

Search the orphan works register

Search the orphan works register for details of:

  • applications for orphan works licences
  • licences that have been granted
  • applications that have been refused

Before you apply for a licence

  • check that the work you want to copy is still in copyright because if it isnt, you dont need a licence to use it
  • check whether the use falls within one of the copyright exceptions
  • read the guidancefor applicants
  • carry out a diligent search for right holders in accordance with IPO published guidance
  • complete the diligent search checklist(s) and convert these to one PDF document to upload as part of the application process

Costs: application and licence fees

The cost of getting a licence includes an application fee and a licence fee.

The fees are calculated and displayed at the start of the online application process before you decide whether to go ahead with your application. The fee will depend on how many different works and uses you want to license.

In some cases, the licence fee will be set on a price on application basis. If the use you want to make of the work is not listed on the online application form, you should contact the IPO at for details of the fee.

Youll need to pay the application fee when you submit the application (see table below). This is non-refundable. At this stage you do not need to pay the licence fee.

Number of works Fee Number of works Fee Number of works Fee
1 20 11 42 21 62
2 24 12 44 22 64
3 26 13 46 23 66
4 28 14 48 24 68
5 30 15 50 25 70
6 32 16 52 26 72
7 34 17 54 27 74
8 36 18 56 28 76
9 38 19 58 29 78
10 40 20 60 30 80

Payment can only be made by credit or debit card.

Apply for an orphan works licence

The apply for an orphan works licence service will be unavailable between 6am and 5pm on Saturday 12 September 2020.

To apply for a licence, complete the online application form.

If the licence is for a photograph or a still visual image, you will need to upload an image of it as part of the application process.

After youve made an application

IPO will let you know by email that theyve received your application. Theyll consider your application including checking that an adequate diligent search has been made.

Theyll add certain details of your application to the orphan works register.

Theyll aim to contact you about your application within 10 working days. This may not always be possible if the application is complex or involves a large number of different works with different right holders.

Successful applications

If your application is successful, IPO will ask you if you want to proceed with all the works and uses you have requested. Youll be able to remove any works or uses from the application at this stage. If you want to add works or uses, youll need to submit a new application.

IPO will also send you the terms and conditions that apply to the licence. A set of standard terms and conditions is included in the guidance.

If you want to go ahead, youll now need to pay the licence fee. The fee will vary depending on the types of orphan work you want to use and what you want to do with them.

Whenever you use the work, youll need to:

  • provide contact details for the IPO
  • include the orphan works application number
  • credit the right holder if you know their name

Refused applications

IPO may refuse your application for a licence if they think:

  • a proper diligent search hasnt been made
  • your proposed treatment, adaptation or alteration of the orphan work is derogatory, see paragraph 2.21 of the guidance
  • it wouldnt be in the public interest to issue a licence

Right holders

If you are a right holder and believe your work is the subject of an application for a licence, or your work has already been licensed as an orphan work, you can:

  • contact IPO to stop the application if a licence has not yet been issued
  • contact IPO to claim the licence fee that has been paid

In both cases, the work will be on the register. If you want to make a claim, use the contact form which can be found when viewing the details of an individual work.

Once a right holder has been identified, no further licences will be issued. Further guidance is available for right holders.

Make a complaint or appeal


  1. If your application has been refused, or youre not happy about a licence condition or the licence fee charged, you should contact the IPO at:
  2. If youre still not happy about the licence condition or licence fee, you have the right to appeal to an IPO official not involved in the original decision.
  3. If the issue cant be resolved, you can appeal to the Copyright Tribunal at

Right holders

  1. If youre not happy with the actions IPO have taken, contact them at: in the first instance.
  2. If youre still not happy you have the right to appeal to

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