Friday, April 22, 2011

After 44 Years Chinese Lovers of Literature Can Legally Buy "One Hundred Years Of Solitude"

Photo Festival Internacional de Cine en Guadalajara 

Zhang Lei wrote a nice article for the Global Times about Thinkingdomhouse, a publisher who achieved to get a copyright license for China from Nobel Prize for Literature laureate Gabriel García Márquez to publish his masterpiece 'One hundred years of solitude' (Cien años de soledad).

"Unauthorized editions were widely available in markets as early as the 1980s, which infuriated the author, who vowed that even 150 years after his death, his works would not be authorized in China, when he visited in 1990." Well if Márquez was quoted correctly, he might be able to abstain Chinese publishers from authorised versions, but his copyright will expire 50 years after the moment he will exchange the temporary with the eternal. Then again within magic-realism, a writing style Márquez brought to great fruition, 150 years starting in the 1980s is a possibility which can not be completely excluded. It is great news that this summer an authorised version of Márquez' masterwork will be on sale in China. On the one hand it is moral rights of the author to determine whether he makes his work public or not (le droit de divulgation). On the other hand you cannot blame Chinese literature lovers that they want to read Márquez' masterpiece of which Pulitzer Prize winner William Kennedy said "the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race."

Zhang is mentioning China's membership of the Universal Copyright Convention in 1992, as the moment the publishing industry has gradually increased awareness of copyright. According to this convention an author had to put a © on their work, his name and the year of creation in order to be protected via copyright.

Article III (1.) Universal Copyright Convention: "Any Contracting 'State which, under its domestic law, requires as a condition of copyright, compliance with formalities such as deposit, registration, notice, notarial certificates, payment of fees or manufacture or publication in that Contracting State, shall regard these requirements as satisfied with respect to all works protected in accordance with this Convention and first published outside its territory and the author of which is not one of its nationals, if from the time of the first publication all the copies of the work published with the authority of the author or other copyright proprietor bear the symbol © accompanied by the name of the copyright proprietor and the year of first publication placed in such manner and location as to give reasonable notice of claim of copyright."

Interestingly, this is in contradiction to the "no formalities" requirement of article 5 (2) Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works to which China acceded in the same year. UNESCO's Universal Copyright Convention has been rather dormant lately, but it could already make a useful distinction between works in the public domain without the © and those protected by copyright. It avoids also to some extent the copyright orphan problem, because the name must be included. Creative Commons has been "ported" to China and makes clear what kind of use is allowed online, see here

Read the Global Times article here.    

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