Orphan works cause a problem For Libraries & Museums. Orphan works are those copyright protected works for which the copyright holders or authors cannot be reached. Even though the name of the copyright holder may be known, contact information may be lacking. If the copyright owner doesn’t want to have their identity made known, but still provides the required contact information the works will not become orphaned. Several reasons exist for orphan works. The copyright holder may not even be aware of the copyright ownership of the work or the company may have closed down and there is no way to determine to whom copyright ownership for the works has gone. In such an instance the work will thus become an orphaned work.

One of the main reasons for the increase in orphan works is that of the length of copyright protection. Another reason often stated is that copyright is automatically assigned. Since there is no official registration process required, there is no record of ownership. Millions of orphan works are still present in various places such as libraries and museums. Pictures where the photographer is not known, musical recordings and rather unknown novels are all material which can become orphaned works. Orphan works are a real problem for libraries and museums wanting to digitize their collections. They will not include such works because the copyright holder may reappear and lay claim to damages. The works can thus not be made available for other artists, writers, or musicians until the copyright owner has been located.

Many groups have argued that the laws should be changed so that it becomes compulsory to register certain types of work. They also argue that should a person seek the copyright owner and comes up empty handed then the work should become available for usage.