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Currently, publishers in China are required by regulation to submit free sample copies of electronic works to the National Library of China, the Archives Library of Chinese Publications, and the central government agency in charge of publication.  The deposit requirement does not appear to have been extended to online publications or electronic copies of traditional publications.

 China’s newly enacted Public Library Law contains a provision on legal deposit, which requires publishers to deposit official publications not only with the national library, but also with local public libraries at the provincial level.

I. Current Regulations

China’s Regulations on Publication Administration, which were issued by the State Council in 2001 and revised in 2011, require publishers to submit free sample copies of publications to the National Library of China, the Archives Library of Chinese Publications, and the government agency in charge of publication under the State Council.[1]  The National Library of China asks for three copies of first-edition books and one copy of reprinted books to be submitted to the Library, which does not appear to include electronic copies of traditional publications.[2]

Based on the Regulations on Publication Administration, the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) issued the Provisions on the Administration of Electronic Publishing (Electronic Publishing Provisions) in 2008.[3]  Effective April 15, 2008, the Provisions repealed the Provisions on the Administration of Electronic Publications that were issued by the GAPP in 1997.[4]  The 2008 Provisions provide that “prior to publishing electronic works, a publishing unit shall send free sample copies to the National Library of China, Archives Library of Chinese Publications, and the GAPP.”[5]

The deposit requirement does not appear to have been extended to online publications.  Electronic publications regulated by the Electronic Publishing Provisions are mainly those stored on offline media such as CDs and DVDs.  According to the Provisions, “electronic publications” are

media of mass communication that, by means of numeric codes, store informative and thoughtful contents upon editing and processing, on magnetic, optical, electronic and other media that have a fixed physical form, with access via electronic reading, display and play devices, including Compact Disk-Read Only Memory (CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, etc), Compact Disk Recordable (CD-R, DVD-R, etc),  Compact Disk Rewritable (CD-RW, DVD-RW, etc.), diskette, hard disk, integrated circuit card and other forms of media  recognized by the General Administration  of Press and Publication (GAPP).[6]

Online publications are separately regulated by the Provisions on Administration of Online Publishing Services (Online Publishing Provisions), which were jointly issued by the State Administration of Press and Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) in 2016.[7]  The Online Publishing Provisions do not contain deposit requirements for online publications.  The Provisions do require online publishing service providers to keep records of the content of online publications, as well as the time of publication and the URLs or domain names, for sixty days, but this is mainly for the purpose of government inspections.[8] 

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II. New Public Library Law on Legal Deposit

The Public Library Law was passed in November 2017 and took effect on January 1, 2018.[9]  The Law contains a general provision on the legal deposit of official publications, which requires publishers to deposit official publications not only with the National Library of China, but also with local public libraries at the provincial level.[10]  Relevant government authorities are expected to formulate detailed rules or revise the current rules on legal deposit in accordance with the Law, but have not yet done so.

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Prepared by Laney Zhang
Foreign Law Specialist
July 2018


[1] 出版管理条例 [Regulations on Publication Administration] (issued by the State Council on Dec. 25, 2001, revised Mar. 19, 2011) art. 22, http://www.gov.cn/zwgk/2011-03/19/content_1827821.htm, archived at https://perma.cc/5UZ9-PDZ6.

[2] Briefing of Legal Deposit, National Library of China, http://www.nlc.cn/newen/su/ldop/bold/ (last visited Apr. 26, 2018), archived at https://perma.cc/RX7J-T6LE

[3] 电子出版物出版管理规定 [Provisions on the Administration of Electronic Publishing] (issued by the GAPP on Feb. 21, 2008, effective Apr. 15, 2008), http://www.gapp.gov.cn/kejishuzi/Technology_old/contents/3738/ 143297.html, archived at https://perma.cc/VZP2-2A3H, English translation provided by Westlaw China (by subscription).

[4] Id. art. 63.

[5] Id. art. 35.

[6] Id. art. 2.

[7] 网络出版服务管理规定 [Provisions on Administration of Online Publishing Services] (issued by the SAPPRFT and MIIT on Feb. 4, 2016, effective Mar. 10, 2016), http://www.miit.gov.cn/n1146290/n4388791/c4638978/ content.html, archived at https://perma.cc/58TN-YF6T.

[8] Id. art. 34.

[9] 中华人民共和国公共图书馆法 [PRC Law on Public Library] (adopted by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on Nov. 4, 2017, effective Jan. 1, 2018) art. 26, http://www.npc.gov.cn/npc/ xinwen/2017-11/04/content_2031427.htm, archived at https://perma.cc/NA72-6BG6.

[10] Id. art. 26.

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Last Updated: 12/30/2020