Orphan Works Hackathon: Final Report of the Concepts, Process and Insights

Orphan Works Hackathon: Final Report of the Concepts, Process and Insights


As the first collaboration of its kind, in February 2016, IP Osgoode and The Copyright and International Trade Policy Branch of the Department of Canadian Heritage, came together to organize the “Orphan Works Licensing Portal Hackathon”, a multi-day hackathon to develop options for a new online system to process licensing of Canadian orphan works through collaborative engagement of experts and stakeholders.

The Hackathon, a unique workshop-type event, using a mixture of user-centered design and agile start-up methodology, allowed the full range of participants (students, engineers, policy analysts, collective society members, industry experts, librarians, archivists) from Canada and abroad to work in teams to identify opportunities, design new prototypes to improve the Canadian Orphan Works system. Significantly, the participants pitched the resulting prototypes and tested these for evaluation by subject-matter experts.

The hackathon produced and vetted many new ideas within the three days, and some of the more successful concepts were built into initial demos with the potential to be flushed out in full by ongoing projects. Thanks to IP Osgoode’s collaboration with BEST (Bergeron Entrepreneurs in Science & Technology) at the Lassonde School of Engineering, which ultimately awarded as prizes, time and expertise in their labs to further develop the prototypes, these projects have the serious ability of being adopted and making a difference in the orphan works system. In addition to the concepts and demos, the hackathon also produced some key insights and directions for future work in improving intellectual property policy generally, and specifically that around orphan works and the copyright regime. Rather than the usual “conferencing of ideas”, the hands-on approach of the hackathon served as a quick and agile way to surface many concerns, new ideas, and key points for intervention and opportunities. Ultimately, the idea of employing the concept of a hackathon to work constructively towards solutions, came from IP Osgoode’s Founder and Director, Professor D’Agostino’s sabbatical time in Stanford, and animated by her SSHRC grant work entitled “Triggering Innovation: Transnational Partnership for the Mobilization of IP Policy and Practices” (SSHRC Partnership Development Grant, Grant No. 890-2011-0097). With already a successful hackathon organized the previous academic year in partnership with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office and the Lassonde School of Engineering, on making the patent system more user-friendly, the concept of hackathons are no doubt a useful practical and policy tool to resolve many of Canada’s IP challenges.

This report presents the process that the hackathon used, the work product that was created during the design process, and the concepts and insights that emerged out of the hackathon.


Featured here is the Introduction section of the report entitled "IP Osgoode Orphan Works Hackathon: Final Report of the Concepts, Process and Insights" by Professor Giuseppina D'Agostino and Margaret Hagan, the Design Hosts for the Orphan Works Licensing Portal Hackathon, which took place on February 3-5, 2016 at Osgoode Hall Law School.  The full report can be found here.

Giuseppina D’Agostino is the Founder & Director of IP Osgoode, the IP Intensive Program, and the Innovation Clinic, the Editor-in-Chief for the IPilogue and the Intellectual Property Journal, and an Associate Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School.

Margaret Hagan is a fellow at Stanford Law’s Center on the Legal Profession and a lecturer at Stanford Institute of Design (the d.school).