Wednesday 1st July 2015


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Understanding China’s complex publishing landscape

Sophie Rochester

Partner, The Literary Platform

Two new reports ‘Found in Translation: How Social Media Platforms Can Help UK Publishers Understand Their Market In China’ (Nesta), and ‘The Publishing Landscape in China: New and Emerging Opportunities for British Writers’ (The Literary Platform) are published today (Wednesday 27th May 2015) to coincide with the launch of Book Expo America 2015, which this year welcomes China as the Global Market Forum Guest of Honour.

Below is an extract from The Literary Platform report ‘The Publishing Landscape in China: New and Emerging Opportunities for British Writers’. Both reports can be downloaded here.

China’s current publishing landscape is at once exciting and complex, and is in the midst of a significant transformation through its opening up to the world in commerce and culture, and through the impact of technology that is, as elsewhere, radically changing the way its readers consume and share written content.

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Third party sequels, prequels and fan fiction – mis-taken identity?

Mailin Balan

Associate, Shoosmiths

Fanfiction is described by the online writing platform Wattpad as ‘writing that remixes characters, places, or plots from existing narratives to tell new, original stories.‘ Here Mailin Bala, Associate at Shoosmiths considers whether copyright owners are able to protect their plots, themes and characters from third party sequels, prequels and fan fiction, and reveals a complex legal arena.

The announcement by Quercus Publishing that a fourth book in the ‘Girl with a Dragon Tattoo‘ trilogy written by David Lagercrantz is to be published in August this year has promoted the resurgence of the question: can copyright owners can protect their plots, themes and characters from being used in unauthorised works created by third parties.

Of course, in this particular case, the question does not arise, as the estate of Stieg Larson and Quercus Publishing, as copyright owners, have commissioned the new book themselves. But what is the legal position where that is not the case? What can copyright owners do (if anything) to protect their plots, themes and characters from unauthorised use?

The legal position

We take a look at how a copyright owner can seek to protect its works below. However, to put this all in context, let’s first look at the basics of what constitutes copyright and how it can be infringed.

English law specifies a list of works in which copyright can subsist, including literary, dramatic and artistic works. To infringe a copyright work, a person must have carried out, or authorised the carrying out, of one or more of a number of prohibited acts (including copying or adapting the original work) in relation to a ‘substantial part’ of the work, without the consent of the copyright owner. ‘Adapting’ is very narrowly defined to include making a translation and making a non-dramatic work into a dramatic work and vice versa and so it is of limited use when looking at the appropriation of plots, themes and characters in the context we are looking at.

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