Overall aim of the FORWARD project is to support audiovisual (AV) archives in Europe to identify orphan works more easily. The FORWARD system supports the assessment of the rights status of audiovisual works and the diligent search for orphan works. 13 partners, among them 10 Film Heritage Institutions (FHI), are working on the 3-years project (2013-2016) under the coordination of Cinémathèque royale de Belgique.


A hundred thousands of audiovisual works preserved in European archives are today inaccessible because their rights status is not clear. These works cannot be used neither for commercial distribution, nor for educational and cultural purposes, for example in the context of large digitisation projects. Rights clearing for AV works is a complex process while, at the same time, the resources of archives in identifying and locating rights holders are limited. The most relevant problem is the lack of structured and reliable EU wide information resources. FORWARD provides an innovative solution to respond to this need.

Main goals of FORWARD

  • Create a system that provides high-level information about the rights status of AV works (public domain, in copyright, orphan, partially orphan, not orphan)
  • Create an Audiovisual Registry for Orphan Works
  • Searching functionality within the FORWARD catalogue among FHIs data and crossreferencing FHIs and VIAF (Virtual International Authority File) records through the use of identifiers, thus increasing the usefulness of the data through linked data
  • Develop export functionalities of rights statements to the EUIPO (European Union Intellectual Property Office) Orphan Works Database
  • Explore the interoperability between FORWARD and ARROW
  • Establish a network of 10 national rights clearance centres across Europe

Key figures

  • Analysis and application of 10 legal frameworks in Europe to assess the copyright status of AV works
  • Import of 495,798 film works and persons from FHI databases into the FORWARD catalogue
  • Matching and integration of 26,465,213 VIAF records (Virtual International Authority File) into the FORWARD catalogue
  • Collection and analysis of 232 external data sources for the diligent search (databases and catalogues from FHI, national archives, collecting societies, professional associations etc.)
  • Monitoring the implementation of the Orphan Works Directive in 11 member states


Cinémathèque royale de Belgique/Koninklijk Belgisch Filmarchief, coordinator (Brussels) | Association des Cinémathèques Européennes (Brussels, Frankfurt) | EYE Film Institute Netherlands (Amsterdam) | Consorzio Interuniversitario – CINECA (Bologna) | CNC – Archives françaises du film (Bois d´Arcy) | Det Danske Filminstitut (Copenhagen) | KAVI – National Audiovisual Insitute (Helsinki) | Instituto de la Cinematografia y Artes Audiovisuales – Filmoteca Española (Madrid) | Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna (Bologna) | Deutsches Filminstitut – DIF (Frankfurt) | FOCAL International LTD (Middlesex) | Filmoteka Narodowa (Warsaw) | Národní filmový archiv – National Film Archive (Prague)

The EU Directive on certain permitted uses of orphan works

The Directive 2012/28/EU allows Europe’s libraries, archives, film heritage institutions, public broadcasters and other organisations acting in the public interest to provide on-line cross-border access to orphan works contained in their collections, provided that a diligent search for the rights holder(s) has been carried out prior to the use of the film.
By October 2014, all Member States must have transposed the Directive into national law. FORWARD will support film heritage institutions in the implementation process.

FORWARD and the EUIPO Database (formerly known as OHIM)

FORWARD will coordinate with the EUIPO database (European Union Intellectual Property Office), which is a EU registry for all types of European orphan works. FORWARD will process identified AV orphan works to the EUIPO registry.

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