Copyright Protection in China: A Guide

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Are you planning to do business in China or use your creative works within the country? Understanding copyright protection in China is crucial for safeguarding your intellectual property rights. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the essentials of copyright protection in China, including the legal framework, registration process, enforcement, and practical tips to help you secure your rights.


Understanding Copyright in China

Defining Copyright

Copyright is a form of intellectual property right that grants creators exclusive control over the use, reproduction, and distribution of their original works. In China, copyright protection is mainly governed by the Copyright Law, which adheres to international treaties such as the Berne Convention and the TRIPS Agreement.

Copyrightable Works

Copyright protects a wide range of creative works, including:

  1. Literary works
  2. Artistic works
  3. Musical compositions
  4. Films and audiovisual works
  5. Architectural designs
  6. Computer software

However, copyright does not cover ideas, concepts, or mere facts.

Copyright Owner Rights

In China, copyright owners have the exclusive right to:

  1. Reproduce their works
  2. Distribute their works
  3. Create derivative works
  4. Display or perform their works publicly
  5. Communicate their works through information networks.


Chinese Copyright Law

Legal Framework

The copyright law of the People’s Republic of China is the primary legislation governing copyright in China. The law was first enacted in 1990 and has undergone several revisions. This legal framework, along with various regulations, guidelines, and judicial interpretations, forms the basis for copyright protection in China.

Duration of Copyright

In China, copyright protection generally lasts for the life of the author plus 50 years, calculated from the end of the calendar year in which the author dies. For works of joint authorship, the term is calculated from the end of the year when the last surviving author dies.


Registering Copyright in China

Benefits of Registration

Although copyright protection is automatic upon the creation of an original work, registering your copyright with the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) has several benefits:

  1. Provides prima facie evidence of ownership
  2. Helps in enforcing your rights against infringers
  3. Facilitates licensing and commercialization

Registration Process

To register your copyright in China, you need to:

  1. Prepare the required documentation, including a copy of the work, proof of identity, and a power of attorney (for foreign applicants)
  2. Complete the application form with details about the work, author, and copyright owner.
  3. Pay the registration fee.
  4. Submit the application and documents to the CNIPA.

The CNIPA will examine your application and, if approved, issue a copyright registration certificate.


Enforcement of Copyright in China

Administrative Enforcement

You can seek administrative enforcement through local copyright bureaus in copyright infringement cases. These bureaus have the authority to investigate, order the cessation of infringement, confiscate illegal gains, and impose fines on infringers. Administrative enforcement is usually faster and less costly than civil litigation.

Civil Litigation

If you wish to pursue compensation for copyright infringement, you can initiate a civil lawsuit in a Chinese court. The court may order the infringer to pay damages, issue an injunction, or destroy infringing copies. Civil litigation can be time-consuming and expensive, but it can yield higher compensation and more substantial deterrent effects.

Criminal Enforcement

In cases of severe copyright infringement, criminal charges can be brought against the infringer. Criminal enforcement is typically reserved for large-scale breaches or significant financial losses. Penalties for criminal copyright infringement may include imprisonment, fines, and confiscation of illegal gains.


Challenges in Copyright Protection

Despite the legal framework and enforcement mechanisms in place, copyright protection in China faces several challenges:

  1. Widespread infringement and piracy
  2. Inadequate public awareness of intellectual property rights
  3. Difficulty in gathering evidence of infringement
  4. Limited resources and expertise among enforcement authorities


Tips for Protecting Your Copyright in China

  1. Register your copyright with the CNIPA for more substantial evidence of ownership
  2. Implement technological protection measures, such as digital rights management
  3. Monitor the market for potential infringement and take swift action against infringers
  4. Educate your employees, partners, and customers about the importance of respecting intellectual property rights
  5. Seek professional advice from intellectual property attorneys or consultants



Navigating the world of copyright protection in China can be complex, but understanding the legal framework, registration process, and enforcement mechanisms is essential to safeguarding your intellectual property rights. By following the tips provided in this guide and seeking professional advice, you can better protect your creative works and ensure a more secure footing for your business in China.


Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is copyright registration mandatory in China?

Copyright registration is not mandatory; protection is automatic upon creating original work. However, registering your copyright provides prima facie evidence of ownership and can assist in enforcement actions.

2. Can foreigners register copyright in China?

Yes, foreigners can register a copyright in China. The registration process is similar for both domestic and foreign applicants, but foreign applicants need to provide a power of attorney.

3. How long does it take to register a copyright in China?

The copyright registration process in China typically takes three to six months, depending on the complexity of the application and the workload of the CNIPA.

4. Can I enforce my foreign copyright in China?

China is a member of the Berne Convention and the TRIPS Agreement, which means that foreign works are protected in China under these international treaties. However, enforcement actions must be carried out according to Chinese laws and procedures.

5. What are the penalties for copyright infringement in China?

Penalties for copyright infringement in China vary depending on the enforcement method chosen. Administrative enforcement can result in the cessation of infringement, confiscation of illegal gains, and fines. Civil litigation can lead to compensation for damages, injunctions, and destruction of infringing copies. Criminal enforcement may result in imprisonment, fines, and confiscation of illegal gains.


Contact us if you need help with background investigation of Chinese companies, protecting patents, copyright, trademarks, verification of contracts to the law in China, or help with other legal challenges that you have in China.

If you require our assistance or have further questions about our services, please do not hesitate to contact our Customer Relationship Manager, Jan Erik Christensen, at We look forward to hearing from you and helping your business succeed in China.