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How did the newly established People's Republic of China (PRC) tackle the old problem of literary piracy from a socialist perspective? This article examines the new state's attempts to eliminate piracy without issuing a copyright law, focusing on a high-profile case in 1950s Shanghai. Demand was high for communist texts after 1949. This trend, paradoxically, prompted market-driven private publishers to reprint communist texts for profit. Worried that their monopoly on ideological truth was threatened by pirate imprints, the party-state increasingly saw piracy as a political issue rather than a legal or economic one. With limited administrative capacity amid a legal vacuum created by regime change, the PRC relied on the Shanghai publishers' trade association to handle piracy cases. Via the publishers' extralegal copyright mechanism, it tried to redefine piracy as a crime of self-interest embedded in the capitalist book market and proposed collectivization as the ultimate solution for piracy.