The Chinese Copyright Dream

73 Pages Posted: 17 Apr 2022

See all articles by Sean A. Pager

Sean A. Pager

Michigan State University - College of Law

Eric Priest

University of Oregon School of Law

Date Written: April 7, 2022


Chinese President Xi Jinping’s vision of the “Chinese Dream” has captured the popular imagination. As a slogan, the Chinese Dream is intentionally broad. Intended to inspire rather than prescribe, it captures diverse aspirations including dreams of material prosperity, environmental sustainability, national rejuvenation, and global leadership. The Dream’s ramifications continue to ricochet through state policy echelons and lend themselves to competing interpretations. In that spirit, we advance a modest suggestion: that the Chinese Dream should be, at least in part, a dream about copyright law.

A more effective copyright system would bolster China’s creative industries, generating a diverse supply of high-quality expressive works whose realization would advance many plausible goals of the Chinese Dream. Yet, copyright has a more fundamental role to play. Xi himself has emphasized that “[t]he Chinese dream, after all, is the dream of the people.” Now that dreaming broadly and boldly is state policy, China’s people need the space to dream. Copyright provides a mechanism to harness the collective imagination of China’s authors and artists. Decentralized investments in diverse, high-quality media will stimulate the robust popular discourse that China needs to articulate and actualize its Dream. In short, copyright can help China dream its own dream.

Because the Dream metaphor is meant to inspire bold thinking, we argue that China should be equally bold in reimagining copyright law for the future. China has shown great capacity to trailblaze in technological fields such as telecommunications and payment systems, leapfrogging Western legacy systems bogged down by path dependence and entrenched stakeholders. China should harness its technological prowess to similarly reinvent copyright in a more efficient, streamlined form. Ultimately, China must devise its own copyright system that reflects its needs and priorities, but we suggest a few candidates for such streamlining: simplified substantive rights; an automated, online registration and licensing platform; enhanced accessibility measures for small creators; low-cost enforcement mechanisms; and targeted use of competition law. A state-of-the-art Chinese copyright system reflecting suitably ambitious reforms will pay lasting dividends, not only for China’s creators and content industries, but ultimately for all of China. To succeed, however, China will have to adjust its current top-down approach to cultural policy and allow greater room for decentralized expression. Creative inspiration—like dreams—emerges through mysterious processes. China should muster the confidence to dream boldly in copyright policy and reap the rewards in cultural vitality.

Keywords: Chinese copyright law, Chinese law, copyright, copyright law, Chinese Dream, China

Suggested Citation

Pager, Sean A. and Priest, Eric A., The Chinese Copyright Dream (April 7, 2022). Pepperdine Law Review, Vol. 49, No. 3, 2022, Available at SSRN:

Sean A. Pager

Michigan State University - College of Law ( email )

318 Law College Building
East Lansing, MI 48824-1300
United States

Eric A. Priest (Contact Author)

University of Oregon School of Law ( email )

1280 University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403
United States

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