Virtual Reality: Virtues and Vices

As our world moves through a phase of technological revolution, Virtual Reality has become the new magic word among technology geeks. Virtual Reality (VR) is used to describe a three dimensional, computer generated, artificial environment which the user believes and accepts as a real environment. Barring entertainment, VR possesses a great potential of transforming the future of numerous fields with medicine, business, architecture, designs and manufacturing being some notable mentions.

Medical professionals have already started using VR to teach their students how to perform surgeries, ease patient’s pain, and treat various social disorders. VR is also helping children and teenagers suffering from autism to overcome their fears of socializing. Automobile manufacturers are employing VR to test the safety of their cars. Architects are now able to build stronger buildings with the assistance of VR. Among its numerous users, travel agencies have also had their fair taste. Using VR, travel agents are now able to pitch various travel destinations to their customers in a very enchanting manner.
Irrespective of the innumerable advantages of using VR, there exist few disadvantages too. Its high cost, technological limitations, appended with incidents of causing motion sickness in users cannot be ignored, and challenge its projection as a “user friendly” technology.

VR is gaining applauds in the field of intellectual property. Originality is the sine qua non of intellectual property. Indian law doesn’t provide for any law to test the originality of the work. However, the degree of creativity marks the work as original. Since there is no definite concept of originality, there exists different doctrines for the same.

The two main doctrines followed in the area of intellectual property are “sweat of brow” and “modicum of creativity” doctrine.

According to the doctrine of “sweat of brow”, the author gains rights through simple diligence during the creation of the work and substantial creativity is not required. For Example, the creator of a telephone directory or a database must have a copyright over the product not because such a compilation of data showcases any creativity, or the author has expressed anything original, but merely because of the effort, time and money invested by the creator to collect and organize all the data in a specific manner. However, such a compilation must be the work of the author himself and must not be copied from another source.

The other doctrine, modicum of creativity, stipulates that originality subsists in a work where a sufficient amount of intellectual creativity and judgment has gone into the creation of that work. The standard of creativity need not be high, but a minimum level of creativity should be there for copyright protection.
India actively followed the concept of “sweat of brow” for a considerably long time. Till 2007, Indian courts held compilations to be copyrightable. However, in Eastern Book Company & Ors Vs. D.B. Modak & Anr; 12 December 2007, Hon’ble Supreme Court discarded the doctrine of “sweat of brow” and shifted to “modicum of creativity” approach. The facts of the case is that SCC, the Supreme Court Case reporter, was aggrieved by other parties infringing their copyright and launching software containing the judgment edited by SCC along with other additions made by the editors of SCC like cross references, head notes, the short notes comprising of lead words and the long note which comprises of a brief description of the facts and relevant extract from the judgments of the court and standardization and formatting of text, etc.

The notion of “flavour of minimum requirement of creativity” was introduced in this case. It was held that to establish copyright, the creativity standard applied is not that something must be novel or non-obvious, but some amount of creativity in the work to claim a copyright is required. The Court held that these inputs made by the editors of SCC can be given copyright protection because such tasks require the use of legal knowledge, skill and judgment of the editor. Thus, this exercise and creation thereof has a flavour of minimum amount of creativity and enjoy the copyright protection.

From then onwards, Indian courts are following “modicum of creativity” approach and completely rejected the plea to protect mere compilations. In order to attain intellectual property right, the work has to be original and not merely a copy of original work. Thus, the primary objective of maintaining a balance between labour of the author and original expression is ensured.

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