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ARROW - Accessible Registries of Rights Information and Orphan Works towards Europeana


At over nine million published titles, the 20th and early 21st centuries account for roughly 80% of all printed works published in the German-speaking countries. In order to safeguard access to this information for the future, it is crucial to start mass digitisation of the content as soon as possible. However, most 20th century works are subject to copyright, making it necessary to obtain licenses from the respective rights holders.

The aim of the ARROW project was therefore to help simplify the process of identifying copyright holders of out-of-print works through the Europe-wide networking of relevant data sources and the creation of automatic request possibilities. In addition, a register was created of works, the rights holders of which can no longer be identified or traced ("orphan works"). Models were also to be developed which provide integrated access to free and charged digital content. ARROW's close links to "Europeana" - the European library, archive and museum in digital form - are pivotal here.

Besides contributing to the technical work packages of the project, the German National Library also scrutinised the various legal issues and the processes involved in establishing the rights for each individual title on the basis of a selection of copyright-protected books. The archive of the Schönste deutschen Bücher competition organised by Stiftung Buchkunst was used as a test case for this investigation.

Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission and responsible for the Digital Agenda, emphasised in her speech held to mark the official end of the project the great potential of ARROW and pointed out that, in the future, ARROW could become the European portal for tracking down information on the copyright status of publications and the respective rights holders.

The project yielded a functioning prototype of the system. This is now to be expanded and optimised in the follow-on "ARROW plus" project.

Project partners

The German National Library and a number of other European national libraries, plus representatives of usage rights organisations and various European publishers' associations.

Project co-ordination

Italian Publishers Association (AIE)


European Commission, eContentplus Programme

Project duration

1 September 2008 - 28 February 2011

Project homepage


  • Jaeger, Thomas: ARROW - ein neues EU-Projekt zur Klärung von Urheberrechten bei vergriffenen und verwaisten Werken. In: Dialog mit Bibliotheken 20, 2008/2, S. 35-38 urn:nbn:de:101-20090511312
  • Jaeger, Thomas; Kolbe, Ines: Das Projekt ARROW - Ein Resümee. In: Dialog mit Bibliotheken 23, 2011/2, S. 22-31 urn:nbn:de:101-2012030878

Last update: 10.04.2012

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