U.S. Copyright Law: English - Chinese Cases and Materials

99 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2006

See all articles by George W. Conk

George W. Conk

Fordham Law School

Wang Qian

East China University of Politics & Law - Faculty of International Law


These bilingual teaching materials were developed for the segment on U.S. copyright law of Prof. Wang's graduate copyright class at the School of Intellectual Property, East China University of Politics & Law, Shanghai in spring 2005. The materials also proved helpful for lectures at ECUPL's suburban campus in Song Jian, and at the suburban campus of Southwest University of Politics & Law, Chongqing.

All materials were presented in English and in Chinese translation, alternating paragraphs, rather than facing pages in order to improve classroom display screen by screen. Statutory provisions were presented in English-Chinese-pinyin format.

Our mini-course on U.S. copyright law followed a conventional structure: constitutional foundations and U.S. Code excerpts (definitions, subject matter of copyright, U.S. Government works, exclusive rights, authorial rights of attribution and integrity, fair use, ownership, transfer, duration, infringement, and remedies), principles exemplified by classic cases.

Our case selection focused on the idea-expression dichotomy, the creative expression requirement, and fair use. We wanted to convey the utilitarian rationale of U.S. copyright law, and constitutional limits on author's rights. We sought to distinguish the U.S. approach from the European view founded on an author's natural rights.

Our objectives led us to use Baker v. Selden, Feist v. Rural Telephone, Sony v. Universal City Studios, and Campbell v. Acuff-Rose. MGM v. Grokster, recently argued and decision pending, lent topicality to the Sony Betamax case.

Campbell v. Acuff-Rose gave us both a concrete example of the constitutional limits on exclusive rights and a vehicle to highlight the creative expression requirement. Both Roy Orbison's Pretty Woman (well-known in China), and 2 Live Crew's rap parody were available in MP3 format. That enabled us to play the songs while displaying bilingual versions of the lyrics, as we analyzed the concepts of fair use and creative expression by the parodists. (An image of 'Cousin It' helped illustrate the gap between the rap version and the Big O?'s syrupy ballad - linked in Chinese minds to Julia Roberts.)

The Chinese-pinyin-English version of the selections from Title 17 of the U.S. Code (and similar presentation of some key phrases in the cases) helped make Professor Conk's lectures more accessible to the students. The pinyin helped to ameliorate his weak character recognition skills, and the Hanzi version helped listeners overcome his American accent and his erratic tones.

Our bilingual teaching method thus began with visually-aided presentations by Professor Conk, whose English was interspersed with Chinese phrases, and illustrated by both the English and the Chinese text of the material under discussion. Professor Wang thus was able to follow with explication and commentary, rather than literal translation or paraphrase.

Suggested Citation

Conk, George W. and Qian, Wang, U.S. Copyright Law: English - Chinese Cases and Materials. Fordham Legal Studies Research Paper No. 888190, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=888190 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.888190

George W. Conk (Contact Author)

Fordham Law School ( email )

150 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023
United States
212-636-7446 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://law.fordham.edu

Wang Qian

East China University of Politics & Law - Faculty of International Law ( email )

Wanghangdu Road, No. 1575
200042, Changning District

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