9 March 2016
In China, the Chinese terms “版權” and “著作權” are synonymous, both meaning copyright. They refer to the right enjoyed by the creator in respect of their literature, artistic works or scientific works, or by the lawful owner in respect of other works of their own intellectual creation. This right includes the right of authorship (i.e., the right to be named as the author), the right of publication, the right of alteration, the right to protect the integrity of the work, and the right to prohibit unauthorised use by others by means such as reproduction, publication, broadcasting and dissemination via the Internet.
Under the Copyright Law, a wide range of works are entitled to copyright protection. Literary, musical, dramatic, choreographic and acrobatic works, works of fine art, photographic works, cinematographic works, drawings of engineering designs, product designs, computer software, computer animation, online game interface, etc., are all protected by copyright. In terms of brand protection, trademarks, advertising slogans, advertising pictures or videos, manuals, product photographs and product packaging, etc., are forms protected by copyright. Enterprises should note whether their works can enjoy copyright. Moreover, recent court decisions held that web-page designs are similarly within the scope of copyright protection.
Some trademarks are not only protected by the Trademark Law, but also by the Copyright Law. These tend to consist of graphics, graphical characters, or special characters. Since graphics and creative forms of characters are protected by copyright, these trademarks are also protected by copyright.
Enterprises’ advertising slogans can be protected by the Copyright Law as long as they have originality. For instance, Remy Martin’s slogan “Once Remy Martin starts to flow, wonderful things naturally follow” (人頭馬一開，好事自然來) is a typical example of an advertising slogan that is protected by copyright. However, not all advertising slogans can enjoy copyright protection. Those that are too simple or lack creativity might not enjoy copyright protection because they do not possess originality.
Product manuals and product catalogues designed or produced by the enterprises themselves are also protected by the Copyright Law as long as they are not copied from others. Where enterprises commission others to design and produce product manuals, they should agree with the commissioned designer or design company on ownership of the copyright. The commissioning company can enjoy the copyright if both parties agree, otherwise the copyright would belong to the designer or design company.
Product photographs and advertising pictures and videos have special considerations. Even though they are produced by the employees of an enterprise in the course of their work, the enterprise should state whether the copyright belongs to the enterprise in accordance with the terms of the employment contract or a separate contract. If the enterprise commissions others to produce such works, the enterprise should also agree with the commissioned designer or design company as to who should own the copyright. In the absence of such an agreement, the copyright would belong to the producer of the works.
For the work of an individual author, the term of protection is the lifetime of the author and 50 years after their death. In the case of a work of joint authorship, the term of protection will expire 50 years after the death of the last surviving author.
As for employment work, the term of protection will expire in the 50th year after the first publication of such work.
The term of protection for cinematographic works and photographic works expires in the 50th year after the first publication of such work.
The expiry date for the above-mentioned 50th year is 31 December of the 50th year.
Publication of the work can be any form of making the work public. It can be a written publication, publication on the Internet, a performance in public, or dissemination of information to the public.