Chen Zhu


Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Dr Zhu considers postgraduate research proposals falling into the following areas:

- Historical and Theoretical Aspects of Copyright Law
- Legal Construction of Authorship
- Music Copyright Law
- Software Related Intellectual Property Issues


Research activity per year

Personal profile


Dr. Chen Zhu is a legal academic committed to teaching and researching intellectual property and informational jurisprudence at the Birmingham Law School. He has an abiding research interest in the changing socio-material conditions where a vibrant variety of subject matters of intellectual property have been constructed and regulated. His published works cover a rich diversity of areas such as the theory and practice of software licensing, music copyright and the legal regulation of sports sponsorship. Chen is a GNU/Linux user and he is passionate about the use of free and open source software (FOSS) toolchains for sustainable legal pedagogy and research.
Chen earned his PhD from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), where he completed a dissertation examining the legal nature of FOSS licensing from a Relational Contract Theory perspective. Before joining the Birmingham Law School, Chen was a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh. 

Research interests

My long-term research ambition is driven by an intellectual quest for understanding IP as a legal form of regulating creative activities in an ever-changing intellectual ecosystem. Copyright, as a bewilderingly dynamic component of IP, plays an important role in expanding its reach and now covers almost every aspect of day-to-day human creations. Starting from the Statute of Anne of 1709/1710 – normally regarded as the first modern copyright act – copyright, over the past three centuries, has undergone a tremendous expansion. Copyright nowadays covers not only “books” but also a sweeping range of non-literary works – including music, maps, paintings, photographs, sound recordings, films, software programs and databases. In this scenario, my research has two interweaving themes. The first one studies Creative Authorship as Cultural and Legal Constructs, while the second—inspired by Ian Macneil’s seminal writings on Relational Contract Theory—proposes  a normative framework called “Digital Relational Contract” to cope with the many challenges posed by the fast-growing digital technologies. Combining these two themes, I hope to build a coherent relational framework for understanding a more distributed copyright system that will nurture and encourage both individual and collaborative creativity in a sustainably long-term way. 

In addtion, I am interested in computational methods for conducting data-driven legal research and pedagogy. I have been dabbling in software programming with the text editor GNU Emacs, which is equipped with a dialect of the LISP language. I programme with LilyPond and Sonic Pi for doing my music copyright research.


  • K Law (General)
  • intellectual property


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