Our alumna Giulia Priora was awarded CEU’s Best Dissertation Award for the academic year 2019/2020 on her work “Distributive Justice and EU Copyright Law: A function-based assessment for a sustainable harmonization”. At this occasion, our student Ahmed Elbasuoney (CCL LLM’20) has conducted the following interview with Giulia where she discusses her interests and work, experience with CEU, and current projects.
Giulia, let’s start by a brief introduction about yourself and academic background
Right now, I am a postdoctoral researcher at Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, Italy, I started in February. I have a master’s degree in law from the University of Turin, where I am from, an LL.M. in comparative law at the International University College again in “my” Turin, and a master’s in German Law from the University of Münster, where I spent almost four years studying and working as a research assistant, which helped me developing my passion in intellectual property and IT law. From there, I continued at CEU doing my PhD and specializing in copyright law.
When did you know that you wanted to do IBL and research?
That’s a very interesting question. I think it started with a very precious opportunity I had in Germany to work closely with postdocs and professors doing research. During law school and my first master’s at IUC Turin in 2013, I was genuinely interested in so many topics and problems, ranging from public law to private law to EU law, but then, once in Germany, Professor Franziska Boehm hired me to collaborate on a project on privacy law and I started to grasp what research is all about, the fact that it is more about questions and arguments, not necessarily standard answers. Even though I had no strong background in privacy law, and still am quite the opposite of an IT geek, working on the relationship and interactions between new technologies and the law really enchanted me. It was during this time that I saw a call online for the undergraduate conference at CEU, sent an abstract and ended up in Budapest for the first time, delivering a paper presentation in Nador 11, a few meters away from what would have become my PhD lab – who would have known! I remember that I immediately felt at ease at CEU, loved the vibrant atmosphere and the old library, which convinced me to apply for PhD.
How would you define your general interests and area of focus?
My expertise is intellectual property law, which is a very broad topic. If I have to be more specific and give you a better idea, since the start of my PhD I’ve focused on topics related to copyright law, creation of knowledge, access to culture, and digital rights. Currently I am working within a European project, called reCreating Europe, which looks exactly at the digital world and access to culture from several perspectives: what making cultural goods available online means for the artists, their producers, us the users, the museums, etc. My feeling is that I am going to stick to intellectual property research for some time, it is a big topic, which meets many of the interests and questions currently in my head. It took time to start getting the picture together, so why changing the focus now? Plus, it is giving me the opportunity to explore methodologies and aspects of it, which are not purely legal, I am talking and working with scholars from economics and sociology departments and conversations get often extremely interesting.
Tell us more about the recreating Europe project and if you are working on any other projects now.
From my point of view, but I think also for a broader audience, it is a very interesting project. The consortium consists of 10 universities across Europe, pooling together different expertise and studying, assessing and suggesting how to improve copyright rules in Europe for today’s digital scenario, which is exactly the field of study and research I picked for my PhD. The interesting aspect is that the project embraces the perspectives of all main stakeholders involved, meaning that it has 5 working groups which focus respectively on authors, industries, intermediaries, end-users and cultural institutions. This is a sort of all-encompassing research, and I think the ultimate outcomes that will be submitted directly to the European Commission will have the added value of an underlying huge effort of collaboration and “broad” thinking.
How did you find about this project? Did you apply or did they reach you because of your expertise?
My PhD supervisor, Prof. Caterina Sganga, who was working at CEU, is the principal investigator coordinating the project. Knowing that I intended to keep researching in this field after my PhD, she told me about this upcoming new project. After finishing my PhD, one of the positions was vacant and I applied without hesitation, one week after I defended my thesis.
Going back to CEU, how long did it take you to finish your PhD?
During the PhD I didn’t know what to expect in terms of timing, I think while you are in the research and writing process, you are pretty focused on the “tunnel” and don’t know when and where is going to end! I must say that it took a lot of energy and self-discipline, but I managed to finish the PhD in 3 years and half, which is not a record by the way, some colleagues, more disciplined and hard-working than me, did it in 3 years sharp with excellent results. But I think time is a very personal thing and what really matters is to enjoy the whole process. I enjoyed the whole journey very much, thanks to the DRSG and the Global Teaching Fellowship I collected the best experiences as visiting researcher at the Columbia Law School and as visiting lecturer at the University of Yangon in Myanmar.
I really encourage you and all master’s students to see this as a “yes, it is possible” experience. It is absolutely possible, especially in an environment like CEU. It gets clearer and clearer in the mind, now that the PhD time slowly starts becoming a memory, that the environment surrounding you is absolutely crucial to have an enjoyable and successful PhD experience. If you are in an environment where you feel comfortable, then you can focus, and if you are focused, you can write and proceed. So, CEU gave me a lot in this sense.
And for our last part, how would you explain your dissertation in non-legal terms to high school students?
I was not expecting this question, I love it! Well, I tried to explain my project to my three-year-old niece. I dedicated my dissertation to my three nephews, and I took up the challenge and tried to answer their question “what is it about?”. In non-legal terms to high school students I would describe my PhD project as follows: I wanted to understand what for we still rely on a quite old legal tool called copyright to regulate the creation and distribution of the “works of the mind”, the creative content in society. I, of course, had to limit the scope of the research, otherwise it might have reached the length an encyclopedia, and I chose the European scenario, which is where it all started and developed quite interestingly in this sense. Studying the reasons why we stick to copyright, I came up with the idea that perhaps the distributive framework might have been a fitting way to understand the intentions of the legislator, who wants authors and artists to receive fair incomes, investors in the creative businesses to have solid incentives, society to have fair access to cultural goods… a fair distribution of resources, after all.
How did you receive the news on your Best Dissertation Award?
I am not quite sure if my mind has processed it yet! It came very fast and surprisingly. I am well aware of the high quality of all PhD dissertations at CEU, so it did not sound real to me at first. When I received the email, my reaction has been: “There must be an IT problem at CEU, they are sending this email to everyone”, then I received a phone call from my boyfriend and I understood there was no IT problem. I am extremely flattered and still now I don’t find the right words. In Italian we have this saying “being al settimo cielo, basically beyond the clouds, over the moon”. When I received the Award, I was beyond the clouds.