Canada’s “Orphan Works” Regime: Unlocatable Copyright Owners and the Copyright Board

The issue of orphan works is one of increasing significance, and has received global attention. Since 1989, the Copyright Board has been empowered to issue non-exclusive licences for the use of unlocatable owners’ works and other subject matters protected by copyright. The Canadian regime, which inspired Hungary’s 2009 initiative in this area, has received little systematic analysis and its details are often misunderstood. A new study prepared by Mario Bouchard, General Counsel to the Copyright Board of Canada (and member of IP Osgoode’s external advisory board) and Jeremy de Beer, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa, is the first to thoroughly describe the legal and practical aspects of the Canadian orphan works regime.

Its purpose is not to conduct a program evaluation nor a policy analysis, but to lay the groundwork for further study of the problem, comparisons with other jurisdictions, recommendations to improve the operation of the Canadian regime, and suggestions for legislative, administrative or practice-based responses to the issues.

Earlier this month, Mario Bouchard also participated in a panel discussion dealing with orphan works regimes as a licensing solution.  His presentation took place on 5 November 2010 at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Global Meeting on Emerging Copyright Licensing Modalities under the theme “Facilitating Access to Culture in the Digital Age”.  An audio recording of his presentation is available on the WIPO site here.

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