How Do You Find A Copyright Owner?

find a copyright owner

“How do you find a copyright owner?” is a question that we are often asked because we know many clients struggle to find the answer.

If you have ever wanted to use an image or video for a project, whether it is offline (for instance, in a book) or online (for example, in a blog), where do you begin to trace the photographer, videographer, or publisher in order to seek their permission to use it?

What if you don’t have any details about the image or video?  Do you make several attempts to contact whoever you think may be the copyright owner before giving up, and then use the photo or recording anyway?

It’s critical to understand the real purpose behind why you want to find a copyright owner

To answer this question effectively, you first need to realise that you may not need to find the copyright owner at all.

First, you should consider why you need the copyright work and identify how it will be used to add value to your work.

5 key questions to ask yourself

Once you have established how the image or video will be used, there are 5 key questions to ask yourself.  Here we share our 5 step process to work out what these questions should be.

  1. When was the work first created, published or broadcast? This indicates whether the author of the copyright work is likely to still be alive, and if a search for their heirs may be required.
  2. When does copyright protection expire? The term of protection or duration of copyright varies depending on the type of work.
  3. Has copyright in the work been transferred? It is common to find that copyright ownership has been assigned, sold or inherited by law meaning that the rights holder is not the creator of the work.
  4. What is the subject matter of the work? This will help you determine if you may also require trade mark clearance or further copyright clearance (for example, if the photo depicts a work of art) or permissions from multiple copyright owners (for instance, if the work is a song).
  5. Finally, the long duration of copyright means that ownership of works can become hard to find, and if cannot be traced, the work is referred to as an “orphan work“. It is now possible to apply for an orphan works licence via the UK Intellectual Property Office, which would enable you to use an orphan work for any purpose for which permission would otherwise be required.

Take Action

Do you think this 5 step process would help you answer “How do you find a copyright owner?” If so, follow the steps whenever you need to answer “How do you find a copyright owner?” and you will find it easier to obtain copyright clearance for the use you require.

For advice on how to find a copyright owner to seek permission to use it in your project, contact us today.