How long is the Chinese copyright term? More specifically, before
which date can works made in China considered to be "public domain",
unencumbered by copyright? Given that the first copyright law was
passed sometime the late 80s (what is the exact date?) does this mean
that any works made before that date are not copyrighted, or does the
law apply retroactively to older works as well?
Looking at Article 21, the copyright term is life+50 years when held
by individuals. Works produced by an organization or corporation are
protected by copyright for 50 years. Copyright on cinematographic
works are also 50 years. In other words, movies produced on the
mainland before 1957 should no longer be encumbered by copyright.
This law entered into force on June 1, 1991. The most interesting
question is what applies to works produced before that date. Does
anyone know the answser to this or where I should turn to get an
My reason for asking is that I am a film enthusiast and want to make
some old Chinese films available through for example archive.org. It
would seem that anything before 1957 is OK, but anything between 1957
and 1991 isn't so clear yet.
Look at Article 59 (《Copyright Law of P. R. C. 》Chapter Vl Supplementary Provisions ).
Article 59: The rights of copyright owners, publishers, performers, producers of sound recordings and video recordings, radio stations and television' stations as provided for in this Law, of which the term of protection specified in this Law has not yet expired on the date of this Law's entry into force, shall be protected in accordance with this Law.
Any infringements of copyright and the copyright-related rights or breaches of contract committed prior to the entry into force of this Law shall be dealt with under the relevant regulations or policies in force at the time when the act was committed.
Obviously, movies produced on the mainland between 1957 and 1991 are still protected by copyright law.