Copyright Law of China

Copyright Law of China

Great Wall of China near Jinshanling

Image by Jakub Ha?un

The purpose of copyright law is to grant the authors of literary, artistic and scientific works rights that protect their interests and thus promote progress in culture and science.

Legislation

The principal legislation is the Copyright Law of the People’s Republic of China, which came into force in 1990, and the Implementing Rules for the Copyright Law of the People’s Republic of China, adopted in 1991.

The current version of the Copyright Law of the People’s Republic of China went into effect on April 1, 2010.

Full text of the current legislation can be found via: http://www.wipo.int/wipolex/en/details.jsp?id=6062

International Treaties

The People’s Republic of China is a signatory of the major international conventions governing intellectual property protection: China acceded to the Berne Convention (1971 Paris Act) in 1992, this came into force on October 15, 1992; The Universal Copyright Conventions (Geneva and Paris) came into force on October 30, 1992; TRIPS on December 11 2001; and the WIPO Copyright Treaty on June 9, 2007.

Applicable works

The law covers all works of literature, art, natural sciences, social sciences, engineering and technology, which are created in any of the following forms:
  1. written works;
  2. oral works;
  3. musical, dramatic, quyi, choreographic and acrobatic works;
  4. works of the fine arts and architecture;
  5. photographic works;
  6. cinematographic works and works created by a process analogous to cinematography;
  7. graphic works such as drawings of engineering designs, product designs, maps, sketches, and model works;
  8. computer software; and
  9. other works as provided for in laws and administrative regulations.

(quoted from Copyright Law of the People’s Republic of China)

Exceptions

Article 5 states that the Law will not apply to:
  1. laws and regulations, resolutions, decisions and orders of State organs, other documents of a legislative, administrative or judicial nature and their official translations;
  2. news on current affairs; and
  3. calendars, numerical tables and forms of general use, and formulas.

(quoted from Copyright Law of the People’s Republic of China)

Who is protected?

The Law applies to:

  • Works produced by Chinese citizens, legal entities or other organizations,
  • Works by foreign or stateless persons made under an agreement between China and their own country, or under an international treaty to which both countries are parties.
  • Works by foreign or stateless persons whose works are:
    • first published in China, or,
    • first published (or simultaneously first published) in a country that is a member of an international treaty that China is also a signatory of.

Ownership of copyright

By default the copyright owner will be:

  • the person that created the work (the author of the work), or,
  • if the work was created under the guidance and instruction of an organization that is ultimately responsible for the work, the owner will be organization (e.g. if an employee creates the work for the organization he is employed by).

The copyright ownership of a commissioned work should be agreed in a contract between the parties. If a copyright ownership agreement is not stated in a contract, the copyright in the work will reside with the person/organisation commissioned to create the work.

Copyright in a work (the rights to the work) is normally a separate asset to the work itself, so, for example, an artist may sell an original artwork but retain the rights to exploit that work (such as to create and sell prints of the work). In this example, whilst the new owner of the original artwork would have the right to publicly exhibit the original artwork, they would still need the permission of the copyright owner to produce prints of the work while copyright exists in the work.

Inheritance and succession of rights

When an individual dies, the rights they had in any copyright works will be transferred (inherited) in accordance with the Law of Succession.

Any rights that an organization has when it changes or is terminated pass to the entity or organization that takes over the old organization’s rights and obligations. In the absence of any succeeding entity or organization, ownership will pass to the State.

Joint authorship

Where a work is created jointly by two or more authors, the copyright in the work is shared between the co-authors.
Where a work can be separated into parts and exploited separately, each co-author may be entitled to independent copyright in the parts he/she created, provided that does not prejudice the copyright in the work as a whole.

Adaptations

Copyright will apply to works that are created by adapting, translating, arrangement, compilation, (etc.) of existing work. Copyright in the resulting work will belong to the adapter of the work, provided that does not prejudice copyright in the original source work; i.e. it does not grant the adaptor any rights in the underlying work, and, if the original work is subject to copyright an adaptation will typically require consent of the copyright owner of the original.

Rights of the copyright owner

A copyright owner has the right to be named as the author and the right to protect a work against distortion and mutilation.

The copyright owner’s permission is required to carry out any of the following:

  • make a work available to the public,
  • revise, adapt, create a compilation of, or translate a work,
  • reproduce the work,
  • distribute the work,
  • provide the work for rental,
  • publicly display, present or perform a work,
  • broadcast a work, or make a work available to the public by any wired or wireless means,

See article 10 of the Copyright Law for further details.

Please also see our Copyright basics page for more details on the rights of copyright owners.

Duration

There is no time limit on an author’s right to be identified as the author and the right to protect a work against distortion and mutilation. For all other rights, the following time limits apply:

  • Works created by individuals copyright will expire on 31 December, 50 years after the death of the author.
  • Cinematographic and photographic works will expire on 3l December, 50 years after first publication
    Works that have not been published within fifty years of completion shall cease to be protected after that time.
  • Works created by a organisation will expire on 3l December, 50 years after first publication
    Works that have not been published within fifty years of completion shall cease to be protected after that time.

“Fair use” limitations on rights

In some circumstances a work may be used freely without permission the copyright owner, provided that there is appropriate acknowledgement of the name of the author and the title of the work being used.

The Copyright Law states these as:

  1. use of a published work for the purposes of private study, research or self-entertainment;
  2. appropriate quotation from a published work in another work for the purposes of introduction to, or comments on, a work, or demonstration of a point;
  3. reuse or citation, for any unavoidable reason, of a published work in newspapers, periodicals, at radio stations, television stations or any other media for the purpose of reporting current events;
  4. reprinting by newspapers or periodicals, or rebroadcasting by radio stations, television stations, or any other media, of articles on current issues relating to politics, economics or religion published by other newspapers, periodicals, or broadcast by other radio stations, television stations or any other media except where the author has declared that the reprinting and rebroadcasting is not permitted;
  5. publication in newspapers or periodicals, or broadcasting by radio stations, television stations or any other media, of a speech delivered at a public gathering, except where the author has declared that the publication or broadcasting is not permitted;
  6. translation, or reproduction in a small quantity of copies, of a published work for use by teachers or scientific researchers, in classroom teaching or scientific research, provided that the translation or reproduction shall not be published or distributed;
  7. use of a published work, within proper scope, by a State organ for the purpose of fulfilling its official duties;
  8. reproduction of a work in its collections by a library, archive, memorial hall, museum, art gallery or any similar institution, for the purposes of the display, or preservation of a copy, of the work;
  9. free-of-charge live performance of a published work and said performance neither collects any fees from the members of the public nor pays remuneration to the performers;
  10. copying, drawing, photographing or video recording of an artistic work located or on display in an outdoor public place;
  11. translation of a published work of a Chinese citizen, legal entity or any other organization from the Han language into any minority nationality language for publication and distribution within the country; and
  12. transliteration of a published work into Braille and publication of the work so transliterated.

(quoted from Copyright Law of the People’s Republic of China)

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