Dr Chen Zhu

Dr Chen Zhu

Birmingham Law School
Associate Professor

Contact details

Birmingham Law School
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Dr Chen Zhu is committed to teaching and researching intellectual property (especially copyright) and informational jurisprudence.  He is also an advocate of free and open-source software (FOSS) for legal pedagogy and research. 


  • LLB (SISU, Shanghai)
  • LLM (with Distinction, Edinburgh)
  • PhD (LSE)


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. 


  • Module Leader: Intellectual Property Law (LLB)
  • Module Leader: Intellectual Property Law (LLM) 

Postgraduate supervision

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

Find out more - our PhD Law  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


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.


  • Music Borrowing and Copyright Law - A Genre-by-Genre Analysis (eds. by Chen Zhu & Enrico Bonadio, Hart, forthcoming 2022)
  • CW Zhu, “The Personality Nexus: Moral Rights in Music Law and Policy” in Oxford Handbook of Music Law & Policy ed. by Sean O’Connor (Oxford University Press, 2021) 
  • CW Zhu, “Adjudicating Sartorial Elegance from the Court—The Sumptuary Impulse in the Law of Modern Sports Sponsorship against Ambush Marketing”, Queen Mary Journal of Intellectual Property (2020)10 (1) 62–86
  • CW Zhu, “Art and Modern Copyright: The Contested Image ” (Review of Elena Cooper’s 2018 CUP monograph) (2019) 41(4) European Intellectual Property Review 266-268 
  • CW Zhu, “A Regime of Droit Moral Detached from Copyright?—The Undeath of the ‘Author’ in Free and Open Source Licensing”, (2014) 22 (4) International Journal of Law and Information Technology 367-392 
  • CW Zhu, “‘Copyleft’ Reconsidered: Why Software Licensing Jurisprudence Needs Insights from Relational Contract Theory” (2013) 22 (3) Social and Legal Studies289-308

View all publications in research portal


Intellectual property (especially copyright)