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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Copyright protection in song China (960-1279) Feng, Nianhua

Abstract

Copyright protection is an important part of modern property right law. Although phenomena resembling present-day copyright law, such as ancient books published in different editions and remuneration for authors are found before the middle of the Tang dynasty (618—907), copyright protection did not come into being in China until the invention of block printing. Copyright protection is a subject that has been studied by few scholars of ancient China. This thesis is an examination of the conditions of copyright protection in Song China. After researching the historical materials about this subject, I have found that the maturity of printing during the Song dynasty (960—1279) stimulated the emergence of copyright protection; however, it also led to the rise of piracy, which seriously threatened the profits made by the government, bookshops and authors. When the commercial production of books began, the Song government also started to take measures to forbid nongovernmental publications involving heretical or seditious materials that might be dangerous to the rulers. At the same time, some owners of the shufang [Chinese Characters] (bookshops which printed and sold books in imperial China) who pursued commercial profit and some authors who sought personal fame joined together to keep their works from being pirated and thus encourage copyright protection during this period. Owing to the different ways books were published, copyright protection in the Song dynasty presents a complicated picture; however, it has a solid background in the economics, politics and culture of the era. The conflict between copyright protection and piracy in Song China played an important role that influenced the development of literature. Copyright protection in the Song dynasty was not systematic just as was the case in later periods. Nevertheless, it resembled modern copyright law in many ways.

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