Orphan works diligent search guidance for applicants

Guidance on searching for right holders in copyright works to obtain permission to reproduce the work.



Orphan works are copyright works where one or more right holder is unknown or cannot be found. This guidance can help you find the right holder to ask permission to copy a work. It will also help if you decide to apply for a licence through the orphan works licensing scheme, which requires a diligent search. The guidance includes details on the sources that applicants must consult and a list of additional sources: not all sources will be relevant for every diligent search. The guidance was developed with professionals in the relevant sectors. Checklists to show that you have completed a diligent search are also above.

To help applicants to the orphan works licensing scheme, there are also sample diligent searches for some types of work. This includes narrative to explain why some sources were searched and not others. The works covered are:

  • film footage - production level
  • printed music
  • unpublished literary work
  • standalone visual art (photograph)
Published 17 September 2014
Last updated 26 November 2021 + show all updates
  1. Sources updated for archive sector and international identifiers.

  2. Orphan works guidance updated to reflect Brexit transition. Portable document format (pdf) file replaced with html page, and rich text format (rtf) forms replaced with open document text (odt) to improve accessibility.

  3. Diligent search checklists RTF documents updated and 4 sample diligent searches PDF documents added.

  4. Orphan works diligent search guidance: Film and sound updated.

  5. All guidance has been updated and a new document for changes 2015 has been added.

  6. First published.