Understanding the Great Qing Copyright Law of 1910

Yufeng Li, Catherine W Ng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


As China is rapidly emerging as a world economic power, it is opportune
to reflect on how modern copyright law was introduced there almost
a century ago, and how diverse sectors within China at the time viewed
modern copyright law in relation to the development of the nation state.
Concerns in China over unauthorised copying can be traced back to
the copying of the Chinese classics during the Han Dynasty (206
B.C.-220 A.D.). However, no substantial effort was made to regulate
publication until the advent of printing during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Further efforts followed the invention of movable type by Bi Sheng between 1041 and 10482 during the Song Dynasty (960-1127).3 The motivation then was to preserve feudal governance among those in power, rather than to establish any comprehensive or centrally-promulgated protection for intellectual creation or for the authors of such creations.4 As literacy began to flourish during the Late Qing Dynasty (1842-1911) with its education and social reforms, publications became popular and in great demand. The Great Qing Copyright Law of 1910, which was passed to regulate publication, was in force for only one year before the law was replaced after the Chinese Revolution Xin hai ge ming) of 1911. Yet, it was significant for having ushered into China a modern copyright law5 and marked China's emergence into the international market, at a time when the powerful nation states had just reformed their own copyright laws after various international harmonization efforts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)767-788
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of the Copyright Society of the USA
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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