Copyright and the Public Interest in China

Copyright and the Public Interest in China

Elgar Intellectual Property and Global Development series

Guan H. Tang

Guan Hong Tang expertly highlights how the multidimensional concept of public interest has influenced the development and limitations of Chinese copyright. Since 1990 China has awarded copyright – individual rights – but also provides for public, non-criminal enforcement. The author reveals that pressures of development, globalisation and participation in a world economy have hastened the loss of public interest from copyright. However, for a socialist country, placing the common ahead of the individual interest, the public interest also constitutes a phenomenological tool with which to limit copyright. The author also discusses how the rise of the Internet, which has had a major social and economic impact on China, raises problems for Chinese copyright law. Comparing Chinese copyright law with the USA and the UK, topical issues are presented in this unique book including those arising within education, library and archives sectors.


Guan H. Tang

Subjects: asian studies, asian law, development studies, law and development, law - academic, asian law, comparative law, information and media law, intellectual property law, international investment law, law and development


Despite the country’s long history, the establishment of a modern legal system in China began in 1978 along with the adaptation of its economic reform policy. While the rapid growth of the domestic economy has dramatically improved the standard of living for many Chinese, the rise of the Chinese economy has also changed the global economic landscape, especially after China’s accession to the WTO. Conflicts thus occurred between tradition and innovation, and between Chinese culture and Western civilisation, which are also reflected in the development of copyright protection in China. Like many other modern laws, copyright is certainly foreign to the Chinese legal system. On the one hand, its principle of safeguarding private property rights in created works contravenes the traditional Chinese value of sharing intellectual works with the community and benefiting the masses. On the other hand, its stress on prioritising individuals’ interest over the state’s interest on the basis of the authorship public interest challenges the ideology of China’s socialist platform, on which the state’s interest has been seen as the public interest in general, maintained beyond all individual interests and rights. Hence, copyright law was disregarded before and for over a decade after its introduction in 1990; it was seen as legislation to benefit foreigners and breach China’s interest, and its formation and coming into effect were delayed in the name of the socialism public interest. Even if the law was enacted in 1990, Chinese authorities struggled to appreciate that the purpose of copyright was to encourage...

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