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COPYRIGHT PROTECTION

OF

DATABASES IN INDIA.

The Indian Copyright Act, 1957 [Hereinafter ICA] has been amended in the year 1994 to
include computer programs, tables and compilations including Computer databases in the
definition of literary work under Section 2(o) of the ICA.
In order to obtain copyright protection the compilation must exhibit some originality or creativity
in its contents. Thus, in India, being a commonwealth country, the Indian Courts follow sweat of
the brow or skill and judgment doctrine. In the first ever instance of copying of electronic
databases the Delhi HC restrained an Italian Company that had copied the plaintiffs online
herbal database onto its website. The Internet Service Provider had to remove the infringing
content1.
Further, In Eastern Book Company v. DB Modak 2, the High Court followed the Feist3 standard
of modicum of creativity and denied protection to copy-edited judgments. The SC though
applied the Skill and Judgment as pronounced in the CCH Canadian Ltd.4 Case and took the
view that to claim copyrights in a compilation, the author must produce a material with exercise
of his skill and judgment that may not be creative in the sense of being novel or non-obvious, but
at the same time was not product of mere labor and capital, The Skill and judgment required to
produce the work could not be so trivial as render it a purely mechanical exercise.
Modak has been relied on by the Delhi HC to heighten the standard of copyright protection for
compilations, information Lists etc. In Dr Reckeweg & Co. GmBH v Adven Biotech Pvt. Ltd 5the

1 Himalaya Drug Company Vs. Sumit, Suit No.1719 of 2000


2 (2008) 1 SCC 1.
3 Feist Publications Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service Co. 499 U.S. 340 (1991).
4 CCH Canadian Ltd. v. Law Society of Upper Canada 2004 (1) SCR 339
5 2008 (38) PTC 308.

court took note of Burlington Home Shopping v Rajnish Chibber6 where it was held that
copyright protection would vest in databases including confidential client lists, and doubted their
correctness, once the SC in Modak had come out with a heightened standard of originality. The
court applied the Modak test of exercise of skill and judgment to each of the allegedly
copyrightable components , and concluded that the nomenclature of the drugs as alphanumeric
series did not reveal any amount of creativity or exercise of skill and judgment on the part of the
plaintiff. The Court finally observed that the overall literature of the plaintiff was nothing but a
compilation of names, the series of medicines etc., which were not individually capable of
copyright protection. In such cases where several components of copyright protection were
claimed, the court had to examine each of them, and also the impact of protection of each (or
denial of protection of each) on the whole, while assessing the impact of the overall assessment.

6 1995 (15) PTC 278.