Poorna Mysoor is College Teaching Officer at Lucy Cavendish College and Early Career Fellow at CRASSH in Michaelmas Term 2023.
Q: You recently joined CRASSH as a Cambridge Early Career Fellow. Could you tell us a little bit about what you are working on during your fellowship?
I’m working on the manuscript of my monograph, Copyright as Personal Property. Although copyright statutes declare it to be a property right, the precise characteristics that make it so are not always made clear. Since copyright derives its structure by statutory design, due to successive refinement in the statutes copyright appears to move further and further away from being a property right. There is also a fear that the assertion that copyright is a property right only results in expanding and bolstering the rights of the owner to the disadvantage of all other stakeholders. Through my monograph, I want to demonstrate not only the close proximity of copyright with tangible property rights, but also that adherence to property logic for copyright can unlock several mechanisms by which a more balanced regulation of copyright can be achieved.
Q: What drew you to your research initially and what parts do you find particularly interesting?
When I was researching for my doctoral thesis, which was on Implied Licences in Copyright Law, I was struck by how poorly the property-like characteristics of copyright are understood. As an academic having equally drawn to tangible property law and intangible property law, I found the need to connect the two, such that the word property for both tangibles and intangibles can be used with greater coherence and consistency. As I started researching deeper into property theory, I was able to visualise that property rights sit on a spectrum, rather than being divided in a binary classification of tangible property and intangible property. A lot of what we think distinguishes between tangibles and intangibles is not absolute, but only a matter of degree – even concepts like ‘rivalrous nature’ of tangible property. This is what drove me to this research. I find the idea that through my research I could find the denominator that connects tangible and intangible property along a spectrum, and write about it at length (in a monograph!) particularly interesting and exciting!
Q: Are there any people that have impacted your research in particular?
I am particularly drawn to the work of Wesley Newcomb Hohfeld. Hohfeld was a jurist who insisted on careful use of language, especially with certain fundamental legal concepts such as rights, duties, privileges, powers and so on. He believed that much of the ambiguity in legal writing could be eliminated if the writer used greater care in understanding the precise meaning of these terms and using them appropriately. In his remarkable work published in Yale Law Journal about a hundred years ago, Hohfeld drove home the meanings of eight fundamental legal concepts (right, privilege, power, immunity, duty, no-right, disability and liability), and elegantly demonstrated the relationship they have with each other. His work endures to this day and many of the problems in private law (law between persons, as opposed to the law between persons and the state) can be resolved by applying Hohfeldian analysis.
Q: If you recently published a book, could you tell us about it?
My first monograph, Implied Licences in Copyright Law, was published by Oxford University Press in 2021. If a person wants to use a copyright work, they need a licence from the copyright owner or their use must come within one of the permitted acts within the copyright statute. I showed in this monograph that even if a person does not have either, it is still possible to rely on implied licences under certain circumstances. In this monograph, I showed a methodical, predictive and systematic way of implying copyright licences, such that they are pressed into service by both judges and users more frequently than they have been doing so far.