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Pirates and Publishers: A Social History of Copyright in Modern China
  • Author Image
    Fei-Hsien Wang
  • Publisher Logo
    Princeton University Press

Pirates and Publishers: A Social History of Copyright in Modern China

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Key Metrics

  • Fei-Hsien Wang
  • Princeton University Press
  • Hardcover
  • 9780691171821
  • 9.4 X 6.4 X 1.3 inches
  • 1.7 pounds
  • History > Asia - China
  • English
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Book Description

A detailed historical look at how copyright was negotiated and protected by authors, publishers, and the state in late imperial and modern China

In Pirates and Publishers, Fei-Hsien Wang reveals the unknown social and cultural history of copyright in China from the 1890s through the 1950s, a time of profound sociopolitical changes. Wang draws on a vast range of previously underutilized archival sources to show how copyright was received, appropriated, and practiced in China, within and beyond the legal institutions of the state. Contrary to common belief, copyright was not a problematic doctrine simply imposed on China by foreign powers with little regard for Chinese cultural and social traditions. Shifting the focus from the state legislation of copyright to the daily, on-the-ground negotiations among Chinese authors, publishers, and state agents, Wang presents a more dynamic, nuanced picture of the encounter between Chinese and foreign ideas and customs.

Developing multiple ways for articulating their understanding of copyright, Chinese authors, booksellers, and publishers played a crucial role in its growth and eventual institutionalization in China. These individuals enforced what they viewed as copyright to justify their profit, protect their books, and crack down on piracy in a changing knowledge economy. As China transitioned from a late imperial system to a modern state, booksellers and publishers created and maintained their own economic rules and regulations when faced with the absence of an effective legal framework.

Exploring how copyright was transplanted, adopted, and practiced, Pirates and Publishers demonstrates the pivotal roles of those who produce and circulate knowledge.

Pirates and Publishers: A Social History of Copyright in Modern China

Author Bio

I am a historian of modern China, with a particular interest in how information, ideas, and practices were produced, transmitted, and consumed across different societies in East Asia. My research has revolved around the relations between knowledge, commerce, and political authority after 1800.

My book Pirates and Publishers: A Social History of Copyright in Modern China (Princeton University Press, 2019) explores how copyright was understood, appropriated, codified and, most importantly, practiced by the Chinese as a new legal doctrine from the 1890s through the 1950s, a time of profound sociopolitical changes. Drawing on a vast range of previously underutilized archival sources, I challenge the conventional wisdom about the incompatibility of copyright with Chinese culture and show instead how authors and publishers fought to establish their claims and protect their livelihoods. The book also brings an economic (and business) perspective on modern Chinese cultural and intellectual history.  

My next book project continues with the questions of cultural production, consumerism, and information regulation in the broader context of revolution and nation building. Tentatively entitled Phantoms of Empire: China’s Post-Imperial Fantasies, it examines the commonly-seen but rarely-discussed motif of “empire,” or diguo in Chinese, in Chinese popular culture from the late Qing empire to the present.

My broader research interests also include history of economic life, micro legal history, censorship, and domesticity. Combining my passion in history and in cooking, I also have been working on a history of MSG (monosodium glutamate) and the politics of home cooking in East Asia.

 

Honors and Awards
 

Mellon Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, Centre for History and Economics and Magdalene College, University of Cambridge
Michael and Ling Markovitz Dissertation Fellowship, the University of Chicago
Von Holst Prize Lectureship in History, the University of Chicago
Bibliographical Society of America Fellowship

 

Source: Indiana University Bloomington Department of History 

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