The Copyright Law of the People’s Republic of China (hereinafter referred to as the Copyright Law) adopted on 7th September, 1990, was amended for the first time in 2001 and for the second time in 2010. Amendment to the Copyright Law for the third time is now underway. In addition, there are many other laws, regulations, ordinances and rules about copyright in China. China has also acceded to major international copyright treaties, such as the century-old Berne Convention, the Universal Copyright Convention, and the decade-old Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, or TRIPS Agreement, which set minimum standards for copyright regulation.
Works Protected under Copyright Law in China
Protected works include, among other things, works of literature, art, natural science, social science, engineering and technology, created in any of the following forms:
(i) Written works
(ii) Oral works
(iii) Musical, dramatic, choreographic and acrobatic works
(iv) Works of the fine arts and architecture;
(v) Photographic works
(vi) Graphic works such as drawings of engineering designs and product designs, maps and sketches, and model works
(vii) Computer software
(viii) Other works as provided for in laws and administrative regulations
Scope of Copyright Protection
Copyrights that are protected under the Copyright Law in China include the right of publication, authorship, revision, integrity, distribution, rental, exhibition, performance, presentation, broadcast or cinema screening, communication through information network, adaptation, translation, compilation and other rights to be enjoyed by copyright owners.
Term of Protection for the Rights
No time limit is set on the term of protection for an author’s rights of authorship and revision and his right to protect the integrity of his work. In respect of a work of a citizen, the term of protection for the right of publication and the related property rights of the copyright is the lifetime of the author plus another fifty years; in respect of a work of a legal entity or other organization or a work which is created in the course of employment, such a term is fifty years from the first publication of such work; and likewise in respect of a cinematographic work.
Copyright Licensing and Transfer Contracts
Anyone who exploits another person’s work shall conclude a copyright licensing contract with the copyright owner, except where no permission need be obtained under the law. Anyone who transfers any copyright should conclude a written contract. Where a copyright is pledged, both the pledger and pledgee shall undergo the formalities for registration with the copyright administration department under the State Council.
How Strict are Chinese Copyright Laws?
A report by an international intellectual property organization found that 90 percent of the DVDs (music, movies and software) distributed in China are unauthorised copies. Music and literature copyright infringement is widely regarded as one of the highest in the world. There are 456 million Internet users in China but no real legitimate online music service. Nearly all the novels of famous writers can be found online and downloaded freely. Moreover, there are also China-based peer-to-peer services assisting in large-scale illegal file-sharing.
However, the landscape of copyright protection in China is changing. In the third amendment to the Copyright Law, China shall authorise the copyright administration department the power of sequestration and the power of seizure, and will raise the amount of penalty for copyright infringement. China even has specialised intellectual property divisions within its courts, and we can therefore expect that China creates an increasingly more protective environment for all copyright owners.
This article is intended solely for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice. Although the information in this article was obtained from reliable official sources, no guarantee is made with regard to its accuracy and completeness.