May 24, 2022

New from Berkeley Digital Library Copyright Project: Third White Paper on Causes of the Orphan Works Problem

Released today by the  The Orphan Works and Mass Digitization Symposium: Obstacles and Opportunities begins tomorrow at Claremont Hotel, Berkeley CA. Here’s the agenda.

White Paper #3 was released today by the Berkeley Digital Library Copyright Project.


Orphan Works: Causes of the Problem
Berkeley Digital Library Copyright Project White Paper No. 3


David Robert Hansen
University of California, Berkeley – School of Law


The orphan works problem can be traced in part to several recent changes in the way copyright law grants rights to owners and in the way that users consume copyrighted works. Broadly defined as the situation where the owner of a copyrighted work cannot be located by someone who wishes to make use of the work in a manner that requires authorization, the problem of orphan works may have existed in theory since the first copyright laws came into effect. But in recent years, at least four developments have exacerbated the problem: (1) the elimination of copyright formalities, (2) the progressive extension of copyright terms, (3) technological advances that allow authors to create and preserve more copyrightable works, and (4) technological changes in the way users access and consume copyrighted works, especially in the shift from print to digital. This paper seeks to familiarize the reader with these developments and the ways that they have brought the orphan works issue to the forefront.

Download Full Text (via SSRN)

See Also: “Orphan Works: Mapping the Possible Solution Spaces”
Paper No. 2

See Also: “Orphan Works: Definitional Issues”
Paper No. 1

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.



  1. […] The symposium took place in Berkeley, CA and was sponsored by the UC Berkeley Center for Law and Technology (BCLT). Links to three white papers that were released by BCLT prior to the event are linked here. ” […]