Concept of Originality in U.S.A, U.K. and India

The concept of originality is a cornerstone in copyright systems globally, including in the U.S.A, the U.K., and India. Defined generally as something novel or unique, originality distinguishes authentic creations from imitations or derivatives. This paper examines the varying legal standards for originality across these jurisdictions. In the U.K., the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988 emphasizes the protection of original literary, dramatic, musical, or artistic works. India’s Copyright Act of 1957 also protects "original" works but lacks explicit criteria for assessing originality, leaving such determinations to judicial discretion. The U.S. Supreme Court's 'Modicum of Creativity' test, established in Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service, has shifted the focus from labor exerted ('Sweat of the Brow') to creativity employed. The 'Doctrine of Merger' further refines the scope of copyright by denying protection to ideas and expressions that are inseparable. The c

Concept of Originality in U.S.A, U.K. and India

Every copyright system in existence requires originality in works protected by copyright. The most common definition of "original" is "new" or "never done before." The attribute of being new or unique separates generated or invented works from duplicates, clones, frauds, or derivative works. It was written in a unique manner and message. The word "originality" is widely used as a compliment when complimenting the originality of authors, artists, and thinkers. In the United Kingdom, the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988 states that original literary, theatrical, musical, or artistic works are protected by copyright. Originality is the primary criterion employed by copyright regimes across the world to determine whether a given work is entitled to copyright protection. The legal need for originality differs by jurisdiction. Section 13(1) of the Indian Copyright Act of 1957 states that "original literary, dramatic, musical, and aesthetic works" are protected by copyright. The Act, on the other hand, lacks any criteria or mechanism for determining the originality of a work. The court must now assess the amount of originality required for a work to seek copyright protection.
Because there is no clear-cut, unitary, or unified concept of originality, the following paragraphs analyse and contrast the many ideas used in various legal systems.
1. Sweat of the Brow Test
2. Modicum of Creativity Test
3. Doctrine of Merger
Sweat of the Brow Test
According to this doctrine, an author gains rights just by using appropriate attention when creating a work. Significant creativity or inventiveness are not required. The creator is entitled to these rights as a result of the time and money he committed in creating the work. The author of a telephone directory or database, for example, must have copyright over the work simply because they took the time, effort, and financial resources to gather and arrange all the data in the desired way, not because their compilation of information demonstrates any original thought or creativity. Before the "modicum of invention" test was applied, Indian courts had already embraced this technique devised in the United Kingdom. The aforementioned legal method is known as the "sweat of the brow" approach since it focuses on the work's labour and care rather than its originality.
Modicum of Creativity Test
The "modicum of creativity" test established by the US Supreme Court in Feist Publication Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service has supplanted the "sweat of the brow" idea as the recognised meaning of "originality." Instead than focusing on originality, the "sweat of the brow" idea offers copyright protection based on the inventor's labour, ability, and financial investment. In the Feist case, the US Supreme Court fully rejected this idea, declaring that a work must not only be the result of independent invention but also have a "modicum of creativity" in order to be regarded unique. The Supreme Court pushed for "creative distinctiveness," creating a new criterion to protect inventions based on the bare minimum of ingenuity. According to this theory, originality occurs in a work if it was created with sufficient intellectual ingenuity and judgement. Although some level of creativity is essential for copyright protection, it does not have to be excessive.


Doctrine of Merger
For a long time, India was driven to the "sweat of the brow" ideology. However, the rule of "originality" observed in India is not as permissive as that observed in England. In Eastern Book Company v. D.B. Modak, the Supreme Court abandoned the "Sweat of the Brow" notion in favour of the "Modicum of creation" technique employed in the United States. The question is whether or not decisions are copyrighted. The concept of "flavour of least requirement of novelty" was proposed in this case. The Court granted the SCC editors' edits and contributions copyright protection. The Court also declared that no copyright could be asserted on court orders and judgements since they are in the public domain and anybody can use and publish them.


As illustrated by the many ideologies described above, there is no single, universal concept of uniqueness. The requirements for originality differ among nations and jurisdictions. The notion of originality is unclear in copyright law since the law defines it as emanating from the author and needing labour, skill, and judgment, yet the prevalent perception is that it refers to a "new creation from nothing." Aside: The "merger" theory, which handles instances in which the expression and the concept are judged inseparably united, has denied copyright protection for works and specific ideas that can be grasped intelligibly in just one, a small number of, or a highly confined way. This has not only prevented writers from creating monopolies over these sorts of works, but it has also made it easier for users and readers to obtain these types of works. Because of the merger hypothesis, facts cannot be the subject of copyright protection.

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