Handbooks of Research on Contemporary China series
Edited by Michael Keane
Economic and cultural sector reforms and engagement with international markets initiated by Deng Xiaoping since 1990 led to the rapid development of the PRC’s copyright law. Since China joined the World Trade Organization in December 2001, affluent Chinese consumers have become an important target market for both Chinese and international firms trading in creative and cultural products. While enforcement remains problematic, Chinese creators and businesses are adept at navigating the intellectual property system – developing business strategies that engage with the possibilities of digital technologies and copyright licensing; using copyright to support expansion into new markets; and adapting distribution approaches to reflect lessons provided by first-movers in digital spaces. This chapter explores how and why copyright’s role is expanding and changing in China, focusing on recent developments in digital content markets. It considers the impact of uneven media sector reform processes on the emergence of ‘born digital’ copyright industries in China. There are signs that the commercial benefits of copyright compliance are beginning to outweigh the advantages of operating outside the intellectual property system for many Chinese stakeholders. We argue that these developments – in particular the emergence of widespread exclusive licensing practices – signal a watershed moment for China’s cultural and creative industries, highlighting the potential for digital technology to create new markets for legitimate content and services, as well as the importance of global dynamics in the development of digital era copyright industries.
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