Graeme Murray at Marks & Clerk discusses potentially thorny legal issues to do with the way the viewer engages with volumetric content

Graeme Murray (5)

Volumetric video is a process that captures objects and movement from every possible angle. This allows viewers to be the ‘director’ and move freely within the space captured, viewing and engaging with content on their own terms.

It also has great potential for content creators, who can use it in post-production to create shots and sequences that are not possible to achieve with traditional methods of filming.

5G networks and edge computing will allow data to be moved at rates that have not previously been possible. This will allow viewers to engage with content produced using volumetric video remotely, by live streaming entertainment and sporting events that they can engage with from all angles, and become immersed in on a level that was previously not possible.

All of this technology will revolutionise how viewers engage with content and brands.

The way the viewer engages with content that is produced using volumetric video raises some interesting intellectual property issues that this article seeks to discuss.

Use of third-party brands

The use of third-party brands in content is clearly an issue that producers already have to consider regularly. It is important to assess whether or not such use is permissible due to its nature, or whether the consent of the brand owner should be sought.

The key is how the viewer will perceive the use in question – will they assume that there is some commercial connection between the brand and the content producer?

Use of a third-party brand in the background of a shot, which before may not have been an issue, could become more problematic when the viewer is able to move freely within the space.

Mere background use of a third-party brand in a traditional film would become more direct and engaging if viewers can position themselves directly in front of the brand as they move freely within the content. This could have an impact upon how they perceive use of the third-party brand and could potentially strengthen brand owners’ position in complaints seeking to address such use.

Product placement and advertising

Advertising and product placement within entertainment content is already extremely prevalent, but the role of volumetric video could be significant.

A viewer moving within a space could potentially engage with products and services on a new level. For example, a viewer could move around a football field whilst watching a replay on their phone and click on an advertising hoarding to purchase the goal scorer’s shirt; or they could click on a laptop used in product placement in a movie and be taken to a website that allows them to purchase it.

This brings with it some additional considerations for producers of such content – do links of this nature take viewers to genuine goods? It will be important for producers to ensure that third-party websites that are linked from volumetric content are selling genuine products and not counterfeit goods, so as to avoid any liability.

Protecting the volumetric space

A film that has been produced using volumetric video would be protected by copyright in the same way as content that is recorded using traditional methods – the question arises as to whether specific elements of the space will be protectable via copyright or design registration.

If a viewer moves within content produced using volumetric video, they can view the space from any angle that they decide to. Are these various views protectable via copyright or design registration, in the same way that computer game developers have sought to protect elements of game play?

What if the film in question includes a particular store and the viewer is able to move around the store – would the presentation of that store be capable of protection via copyright or design registration?

Proprietors of real-world stores that have a specific look and feel have already sought to use these IP rights to protect that appearance, so this could also be relevant in the volumetric space.

As the use of volumetric video becomes more prevalent in entertainment, and as the ability for volumetric video to be accessed remotely using 5G and edge computing increases, all of the issues above and more will develop.

At Marks & Clerk, we have a strong team of attorneys and lawyers working in the creative industries and XR sectors and we would be delighted to discuss any IP issues of interest to you in more detail.

Graeme Murray is trademark attorney at intellectual property legal specialist, Marks & Clerk