Betul Ayranci LL.M. ’15

Portrait of female student with long dark hair, wearing white jacket.J.S.D candidate
Country of origin: Turkey

Before coming to Berkeley Law for the first time for LL.M., I was a third-year associate at big law in Istanbul, Turkey, at the firm’s Intellectual Property Law and Entertainment Industry practice. After I completed my LL.M. here at Berkeley Law in 2015, with Fulbright Scholarship, I went back to Turkey, and worked as an in-house counsel to a top media holding company. I extended their business to eight countries in less than two years in Latin America and Europe. I was the only US-trained, English speaking lawyer in the company at the time, so it was all on me, which was amazing. After two years there, I moved to the Netherlands to work as a legal counsel to Fox Sports, overseeing their European and Africa sports business in collaboration with the local Fox offices and the Los Angeles headquarters.

Since my days in big law, when the firm trusted me with authoring a few blurbs and article drafts on intellectual property and entertainment law updates, I was drawn to researching and writing. During LL.M., I pursued the thesis-track, and produced a comparative study on the right of publicity of athletes in the US and EU, which was supervised by Professor Molly Van Houweling. During that time, I was invited to present my work-in-progress at a conference in Texas. With that first formal presentation, I realized I wanted to pursue a J.S.D. at some point and become an academic.

Following my graduation from the LL.M. program, I was invited to author the Media Law in Turkey monograph by Wolters Kluwer. That was when I started researching and writing a lot about practical aspects of the entertainment industry. Curiosity followed and I expanded my research into technology and start-up space, focusing on intellectual property, corporate housekeeping and cross-border transactions. I was a lawyer by day and a scholar by night. Some of my articles were published by the American Bar Association’s and International Bar Association’s journals. One of the articles that I wrote actually got a global award from the International Bar Association. I was invited to Washington, D.C. and Sydney, Australia to give talks on the topic.

It was in late 2018 that really sunk in that it was time to formally go after my passion and apply to J.S.D. program. I had a great job. I had great colleagues. I loved every minute of my practice. So, I didn’t escape back to school, but I was driven forward to school by my passion and curiosity. I naturally came to Berkeley again, not only because I love the Bay Area and the people here, but also because content and distribution in the entertainment industry is so driven by technology now and Berkeley is the best for technology law. It is also home to the Robbins Collection, which is a treasure for a comparativist like myself, and I am honored to conduct my research as one of the distinguished Robbins fellows.

For my dissertation, I’m working with Professors Rob Merges, Molly Van Houweling, Chris Hoofnagle, Coye Cheshire, and Jonathan Gould. My project is data-driven and about transnational contracts and copyright law in the entertainment industries, how the digital streaming platforms have been changing content creation, valuation and compensation. I’m also developing more and more interest in social justice. I recently authored a book chapter, forthcoming by Cambridge University Press, looking at intellectual property and social justice values of access, inclusion, and empowerment on the international level, focusing on international institutions and instruments, how they are handling copyright, trademark, patents, other IP related rights from an inclusive access and empowerment perspective. I hope to dive deeper on that in one part of my dissertation. Separately, as a Miller Fellow, I am assisting Professor Saira Mohamed on the project “The injury of Illegal Orders”.

The J.S.D. experience is very different from a Master of Laws program. In my LL.M. class, everybody was either already practicing lawyers or preparing to go into practice. The conversation and focus was more practical and practice-oriented. In the J.S.D. program, some of my peers are already teaching overseas or they have experience as diplomats. So the conversation now is more about how to advise better policies to decision-makers, whether it’s politics or judiciary, how to make practice better with bettering the policies. It’s also very individual and more self-focused. It is liberating, but also very challenging to come up with an individual research agenda and the right questions.

The environment at Berkeley is really ideal for an aspiring academic. It’s very welcoming and it really feeds curiosity. It’s no surprise that Berkeley keeps winning Nobel prizes, I think that’s an indication of feeling safe and at home and ready to give 100 percent of yourself to add to humanity and science and art.

I’m looking forward to teaching, but intellectual property and contracts are an area that will always be interlaced with practice, especially in the entertainment industries. So I plan to continue practicing at least part-time to be on the ground and keep up with problems facing practitioners so I can contribute to solving issues that make a difference in the field. I haven’t seen many Turkish names in global scholarship in these areas of law, so I’m excited to add to the academy, not only in my home country, but globally.