Dr Poorna Mysoor is a College Teaching Officer in Law at Lucy Cavendish College. Poorna’s research sits at the intersection of private law with intellectual property law. Her particular interests include property law, property theory, intellectual property law and generally the law relating to intangibles. Poorna was a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow at the Faculty of Law, University of Oxford, and a JRF at the Queen’s College, Oxford, before moving to Cambridge. She obtained her undergraduate law degree at NLSIU, Bangalore, an LLM from SOAS, University of London for which she was awarded the Felix Scholarship, and a DPhil from the University of Oxford. Before embarking on her doctorate, Poorna practised intellectual property law for several years in Hong Kong and was a litigator in India. For further details please visit her profile at the Law Faculty.
I would like to use the term to complete the manuscript of my monograph, ‘Copyright as Personal Property’. This monograph embodies my research funded by the Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship which I held from 2018 to 2021. It provides an analytical exploration of the personal property attributes of copyright by drawing analogies from the law of tangible property. The monograph will be published by the Oxford University Press in 2024.
Copyright lawyers may question the need for an analogy with tangible property when copyright statutes in many jurisdictions state clearly that copyright is a property right. While on the surface such questioning may be justified, the teleological explanation of the attributes of copyright as a property right remains, to a great extent, underexplored for its substance and significance. Satisfactory answers elude questions such as why there is a need for originality; why a literary, dramatic or musical work must be recorded for copyright protection to arise; why copyright licences are binding on successors in title; and importantly, what this says about the attributes of copyright as a property right. From the perspective of property theory, this makes copyright seem more distant from being a property right than it is. As a result, despite carrying the label of property, intellectual property law and property law have developed parallel to each other, with fewer intersections than one might see in land law and personal property law for example. The concept of property remains wanting in coherence and consistency. Exploring the influences of the law of tangible property at a conceptual level could help find effective responses to the challenges faced by copyright in modern times.
The monograph aims to re-evaluate the argument that asserting property attributes of copyright has an adverse impact on user rights. One of the most significant attributes of property regulating access to valuable resources is to define boundaries. This may be in relation to the subject matter of copyright, the exclusive rights, or of the interests in copyright. Clearer boundaries mean owners cannot over-claim any of these aspects of copyright protection beyond those boundaries. This aspect is particularly significant for intangible assets, prompting a re-examination of the dynamics between the owner’s rights and user’s rights in copyright law. The monograph also seeks to demonstrate that different subject matter can be placed along a spectrum on which copyright can be located, challenging a static and monolithic conception of property, in favour of a dynamic and pluralistic one. Developing the idea of a spectrum helps the assessment and future study of other and newer subject matter (for example, digital assets) as to their eligibility to be protected through property rights, acknowledging that the extent of their connection with different aspects of the structure may be a matter of degree.