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Copyright and Fair Use at XJTLU Library

Copyright -- Basic

Copyright can be defined as the exclusive and assignable legal right entitled to the copyright owner for a fixed number of years, to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material. Anything that is written, printed, recorded or produced in any forms is subject to copyright. Copyright covers printed and electronic material, illustrations, films, recorded music, computer software and all the other intellectual property.

According to the copyright regulations in China, copyright is a mixed type of legal right combining personal rights and property rights. It is not fixed but developing with the advancement of the society. 

Copyright provides protection for a material for a specific period of time. The material is considered to be open content beyond this specific time period.

According to the Copyright Law of the People’s Republic of China,

  1. The term of protection of the rights of authorship, alteration, and integrity of an author shall be unlimited.
  2. The term of protection of the right of publication, the right of exploitation and the right to remuneration in respect of a work of a citizen shall be the life time of the author and fifty years after his death, expiring on December 31 of the fiftieth year after his death. In the case of a work of joint authorship, such term shall expire on December 31 of the fiftieth year after the death of the last surviving author.
  3. The term of protection of the right of publication, the right of exploitation and the right to remuneration in respect of a work where the copyright belongs to a legal person or entity without legal personality, or in respect of a work created in the course of employment where the legal person or entity without legal personality enjoys the copyright (except the right of authorship), shall be fifty years, expiring on December 31 of the fiftieth year after the first publication of such work, provided that any such work that has not been published within fifty years after the completion of its creation shall no longer be protected under the Law.
  4. The term of protection of the right of publication, the right of exploitation and the right to remuneration in respect of a cinematographic, television, video-graphic or photographic work shall be fifty years, expiring on December 31 of the fiftieth year after the first publication of such work, provided that any such work that has not been published within fifty years after the completion of its creation shall no longer be protected under the Law.

Under certain conditions, it is permitted to copy the copyright materials for private study or research purposes. This kind of permission is referred to as ‘fair use’ or ‘fair dealing’. According to the Copyright Law of the People's Republic of China, the following four terms and conditions must be satisfied simultaneously when copying works of others under fair use:

  1. The work must be published. Published works refer to those works that have been made public by the copyright owners themselves or other persons under license. The copying of unpublished works is usually not considered as fair use.
  2. The copying aims at private study, teaching, research, religious affairs, philanthropy or meeting the public cultural needs, and has no commercial purposes.
  3. The full names of the work and author must be cited if the work is going to be copied or used, except when both parties have reached a special agreement or the work owns particularity which cannot be indicated.
  4. The normal use of the work shall not be affected, nor shall the legitimate rights of the copyright owner be unreasonably damaged.

Unfortunately, it becomes less clear when it comes to the amount and substantiality of the portion of the copyrighted work used and the effect of use on the potential market for the copyrighted work. Generally speaking, it is LESS likely to be considered as fair use if you:

•    use a large portion of a copyrighted work
•    use the ‘heart’ of a copyrighted work
•    repeatedly use something under fair use when you should seek permissions
•    create a new work which is similar to the original work and/or appeals to the same audience as the original



Textbooks as the primary basis for a course, is a learning tool shared by teachers and learners that can be used in systematic or flexible ways. This document aims to offer information to help staff and students understand how to use textbook properly and stay copyright-compliant in the course of their work, studies and research. Failure to comply with copyright law could lead to individual or institutional liability for infringements.

Definitions of Copyright

Copyright is a property right established in law. It grants a creator of an original work control over how it can be used for a period of time. It protects:

  1. Literary, dramatic, artistic or musical works;

  2. Sound recordings, broadcasts and films;

  3. Typographical arrangements of published editions(both for hardcopy and e-copy);

  4. Expression of an idea as it is recorded, but not the idea itself. Copyright is part of a wider family of intellectual property rights which are granted to owners or creators of creative works. Others include: patents, trademarks, design rights, moral rights, database rights and performer rights.

Copyright Issue for Staff

  1. As a member of staff, you are likely to want to photocopy, scan, and download information from books and online resources to support your teaching. You may also want to reuse these materials in your assignments or teaching resources. (Textbook that you produce will also be protected by copyright). To avoid copyright infringement, academic staffs are advised to encourage students to get their own textbooks from the library. Otherwise, the copyright owner must be contacted directly to ask permission to make multiple copies.

  2. Exceptions allow you to copy a 'fair' proportion of a work without the prior permission of the copyright owner. These include fair dealing for:

  3. Non-commercial research and private study;

  4. Criticism, review and quotation;

  5. Illustration for instruction - this covers setting or answering examinations, including preparing dissertations;

  6. Open licenses which allow some copying and reuse without seeking permission e.g. Creative Commons licenses, Open Government license;

  7. Using library online resources within license terms;

  8. Seeking permission from the copyright holder if none of the above covers your intended use.

  9. For any of the above copyright exceptions to be applied, the use of textbooks must also come under the concept of ‘fair-dealing’ i.e.:

  10. The amount of the material used must be reasonable and appropriate to the specific purpose - usually only part of a work may be used;

  11. Use of the material must not interfere with the commercial interests of the rights holder;

  12. The material must not be used for commercial purposes;

  13. The material must be accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement/attribution.

Copyright Issue for Students

Likewise, students are also required to abide by copyright law applying to both physical and electronic resources.

  1. Fair Dealing for physical textbooks requires a judgment to be made. Each case is different. But where the use would not affect sales of the work and where the amount of work copied is reasonable and appropriate then it is likely that it can be considered fair dealing (including photocopy, scan, print, and download).  The clause allows photocopy up to:

  2. 10% of a work;

  3. One chapter from a book;

  4. One poem or short story of up to ten pages from an anthology

The copies must only be used for your own personal use and should never be shared or sold. In addition it is essential that any third party materials used by researchers adheres to copyright law in any of the systems and communication channels used such as Dropbox, Google Docs, email, personal websites.

  1. E-Textbook that downloaded/printed or copied from an e-platform, you should seek to locate a copyright and or usage statement from the author/creator or publisher associated with the page. ( Licenses and valid time duration are depending on the publishers’ sites) Usually, university library purchase E-textbook as using access code to students. Each individual student will be distributed a code with valid time when using e-textbook.

    Please note in particular that the following activities are prohibited by most electronic resource licenses and agreements and are outside both the letter and the spirit of the legislation, unless specific approval has been obtained in advance:

  2. Making copies of entire issues of a monograph, whether in printed or electronic form;

  3. Making copies for commercial gain;

  4. Altering, hiding or removing copyright notices or other proprietary marks which appear within or alongside the content.

  5. It is essential to check the licenses and what can be done with the materials in each case and also please reminded e-version (including but not limited to PDF) of a hardcopy textbook downloaded from a third party is NOT a legitimate e-textbook unless it is under the copy right owners’ approval.

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