EnDOW (“Enhancing access to 20th Century cultural heritage through Distributed Orphan Works clearance”) is a collaborative project funded under Heritage Plus, a programme launched by agencies of 18 European countries and the European Commission as part of the Joint Programming Initiative in Cultural Heritage and Global Change. The project, which has been running from 2015 to 2018, had the main goal of tackling the orphan works problem by facilitating the process of right clearance for European cultural institutions engaged in digitization of material contained in their collections. 

The orphan works problem

European cultural institutions are engaged in digitisation and making available online of works and artifacts contained in their collections. Europeana, the portal of European cultural heritage, gives access to almost 50 million digital objects from libraries, museums and archives. However, digitisation of 20th Century’s cultural heritage is undermined by the risk that copyright and related rights may still subsist in the works. When the copyright owner cannot be identified or located to ask permission, the cultural institution cannot legally digitize or make available the work. This is what is known as the “orphan works” problem.

What does the law say

Under the European Directive on Orphan Works, cultural institutions are allowed to make certain uses of those works if none of the rightholders could be identified or located after having carried out a diligent search. Legislations of each Member States determine the conditions under which such a diligent search must be carried out; in particular, national legislations determine which sources must be consulted for each category of work to locate the potential rightholders. So, the law provides for a solution of the orphan works problem. However, in practice the requirement to carry out a diligent search results in a complex and time-consuming exercise for which many cultural institutions lack expertise and resources. This discourages them from embarking in digitisation programmes.

The aim and purpose of EnDOW

EnDOW addressed the legal requirement of diligent search in 20 EU countries from both legal and practical perspectives. In collaboration with cultural institutions, it designed an online tool for determining the “orphan work” status of library, archive and museum material, according to the requirements of the European Directive on Orphan Works and the legislation of EU Member States (including the UK). The Diligent Search Tool is designed in user-friendly manner and is addressed to users with no professional knowledge on the complex mechanics of copyright law. In this respect, the Diligent Search Tool can be used by cultural institutions both to carry out diligent searches on their own and to “crowd-source” certain phases of this process, as a way to engage communities and reduce the costs of diligent search. The Tool is now operative and freely accessible online:

As part of the EnDOW project, a number of studies have been published on various aspects of the orphan works problem and the viability of engaging community of users to assist cultural institutions in doing diligent searches ( “crowd-sourcing”). These studies include legal and policy analysis, best practices and case-studies on the use of the Diligent Search Tool: 


  • CIPPM, Bournemouth University (Coordinator)
  • CREATe, University of Glasgow
  • IViR, University of Amsterdam
  • ASK, Bocconi University, Milan

Additional external advise is provided by Kennisland (KL).

Project members

Maurizio BorghiCIPPMProject Leader
Kris EricksonCREATe & University of LeedsPrincipal Investigator
Maria Lillà MontagnaniASKPrincipal Investigator
Aura BertoniASKResearcher
Maarten ZeinstraKLExternal Advisor
Marcella FavaleCIPPMResearcher
Matej GeraCIPPMResearcher
Victoria StoboCREATeReseacher
Ronan DeazleyCREATe & Queens U BelfastResearcher
Sukhpreet SinghCREATeResearcher
Claudy op Den KampCIPPMExternal Advisor
Flavia GuerrieriASKResearcher
Vicky BreemenIViRPrincipal Investigator

Past members

Lucie GuibaultIViRPrincipal Investigator (2015-2017)
Simone SchroffIViRResearcher (2015-2017)
Giacomo TagiuriASKResearcher (2015-2016)
Laura ZoboliASKResearcher (2015-2016)
Margherita BordignonASKResearcher (2015-2016)

Associate Partners

Advisory Board

Patrick PeifferBibliothèque Nationale de Luxembourg
Susan Corrigal National Records of Scotland
Annabelle ShawBritish Film Institute
Margherita GuccioneNational Museum of XXI Century Arts (MAXXI)
Paul DurrantConnected Digital Economy Catapult
Stavroula KarapapaCentre for Commercial Law and Financial Regulation, University of Reading
Maria Carmen BeltranoResearch unit for Climatology and Meteorology applied to Agriculture
Piero AttanasioAssociazione Italiana Editori (AIE) and ARROW
Cédric ManaraGoogle Inc. (personal title)