Virtual Copyright

The Law of Virtual and Augmented Reality (Woody Barfield, Marc Blitz eds, 2018 Forthcoming)

41 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2020

See all articles by Jack Russo

Jack Russo

ComputerLaw Group LLP

Michael Risch

Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law

Date Written: October 12, 2017


This book chapter explores the development of virtual reality technology from its rudimentary roots toward its realistic depiction of the world. It then traces the history of copyright protection for computer software user interfaces (a law that only predates virtual reality by a few years), highlighting competing approaches toward protection and infringement. While the focus is on virtual reality, this chapter contains an exhaustive examination of the state of "look and feel" protection for software interfaces.

The chapter then considers how these competing approaches -- each of which is still holds some sway in the courts -- will apply to virtual reality objects, applications, worlds, and interfaces. We posit that as VR becomes more realistic, courts will find their way to allow more reuse.

We do not expect to see traditional characters and animation treated any differently in virtual reality. Mickey Mouse is still Mickey Mouse, and Pikachu lives in trading cards, cartoons, augmented reality, and virtual reality. It is whether and how realistic depiction, gesture control, modularization and sharing fit within copyright's limiting doctrines that will create important and difficult questions for future developers, judges, juries, and appellate courts.

Suggested Citation

Russo, Jack and Risch, Michael, Virtual Copyright (October 12, 2017). The Law of Virtual and Augmented Reality (Woody Barfield, Marc Blitz eds, 2018 Forthcoming), Available at SSRN:

Jack Russo

ComputerLaw Group LLP ( email )

401 Florence Street
Palo Alto, CA 94301
United States

Michael Risch (Contact Author)

Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law ( email )

299 N. Spring Mill Road
Villanova, PA 19085
United States


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