Case study

Orphan works licensing scheme: Leeds Museums and Galleries


Leeds Museums and Galleries wanted to make the most of its British Art collection. Reproducing the work of an artist with local connections led them to the orphan works licensing scheme.


Leeds Museums and Galleries (LMG) is the largest local authority-run museum service in England and cares for 1.3 million objects, including a fine art collection of national significance. The British Art collection 1900-1920 includes work by Charles Ginner who had strong connections with Leeds, having worked, exhibited and lectured there. He was part of a group of artists influenced by new developments in European art at the time, known as the Camden Town Group.

Ginner died in 1952, so his work is still in copyright. Therefore, his artworks cannot generally be reproduced without permission from the holders of the copyright, most likely his heirs. But as Leeds Museums did not know who the rights holder was, they were stuck.

John Roles, Head of Leeds Museums and Galleries, explains:

We wanted to include Ginner’s work in a database, Collections Online, which we plan to launch later in 2015. This will widen access to our collections. We knew about the new orphan works licensing scheme run by the IPO which could help to provide a licence for Ginner’s work to be included in the database.

Getting an orphan works licence

The first step was to carry out a thorough search to try and find the holders of the copyright in Ginner’s work.

We used the checklist which is part of the scheme to describe how we had searched for the rights holders. We checked with many other organisations to see if they had any leads.

The IPO checked the information on the search provided by the team at Leeds Museums. Once the IPO was satisfied that the search had been “diligent” and was complete it issued the Orphan Works licence to allow the works to be used.

LMG realised that there was an additional benefit to the IPO involvement, above the legal protection provided by the licence:

If the legitimate right holders do come forward within the next seven years, any claims for recompense will be dealt with by the IPO.


Alison Glew, Copyright Project Officer at LMG, has several tips for people or organisations making an application to the licensing scheme:

  • read the guidance provided by the IPO as this will give you a good idea of what is required to make an application, what it costs and how the process works
  • the diligent search checklist is particularly useful as it lists many possible routes and options for tracing copyright holders
  • allow enough time to carry out your search for the rights holders and keep records of communications to include on your application
  • each application to the Orphan Works Licensing scheme can include up to 30 separate works. So make sure you have all the details of each one to hand when you are making your application, including its description, provenance details, publication or exhibition history etc

And does LMG have any plans for the future with other orphan works?

We have over 100 orphan work artists in our fine art collection. So now that we know the online application process is straight forward we are better placed to make decisions about how to tackle the rest!


Source UK IPO


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