Book Details

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    • September 2013
    • 9780231159470
  • 304 Pages
  • 40 Illustrations

  • Paperback
  • $26.00
  • / £18.00


    • April 2012
    • 9780231159463
  • 304 Pages
  • 40 Illustrations

  • Hardcover
  • $34.50
  • / £24.00


    • April 2012
    • 9780231501460
  • 304 Pages
  • 40 Illustrations

  • E-book
  • $33.99
  • / £23.50

Hollywood's Copyright Wars

From Edison to the Internet

Peter Decherney

Copyright law is important to every stage of media production and reception. It helps determine filmmakers' artistic decisions, Hollywood's corporate structure, and the varieties of media consumption. The rise of digital media and the internet has only expanded copyright's reach. Everyone from producers and sceenwriters to amateur video makers, file sharers, and internet entrepreneurs has a stake in the history and future of piracy, copy protection, and the public domain.

Beginning with Thomas Edison's aggressive copyright disputes and concluding with recent lawsuits against YouTube, Hollywood's Copyright Wars follows the struggle of the film, television, and digital media industries to influence and adapt to copyright law. Many of Hollywood's most valued treasures, from Modern Times (1936) to Star Wars (1977), cannot be fully understood without appreciating their legal controversies. Peter Decherney shows that the history of intellectual property in Hollywood has not always mirrored the evolution of the law. Many landmark decisions have barely changed the industry's behavior, while some quieter policies have had revolutionary effects. His most remarkable contributions uncover Hollywood's reliance on self-regulation. Rather than involve congress, judges, or juries in settling copyright disputes, studio heads and filmmakers have often kept such arguments "in house," turning to talent guilds and other groups for solutions. Whether the issue has been battling piracy in the 1900s, controlling the threat of home video, or managing modern amateur and noncommercial uses of protected content, much of Hollywood's engagement with the law has occurred offstage, in the larger theater of copyright. Decherney's unique history recounts these extralegal solutions and their impact on American media and culture.

About the Author

Peter Decherney is professor of cinema studies and English at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Hollywood and the Culture Elite: How the Movies Became American.

Both scholarly and readable, this will be of interest to movie history buffs and those who deal with copyright issues.

A splendid new study of the legal, technological, and aesthetic wrangling over motion picture copyright wrongs and rights, particularly timely.

Thomas Doherty

Decherney's readable book provides a century of evidence about the complicated relationship between film, law, and power.

Rebecca Tushnet

A groundbreaking study on what has been an understudied aspect of American film history.

Jan-Christopher Horak

Have you ever wondered if a book about copyright law could be as compelling as the Fifty Shades trilogy, but without BDSM scenes? Well, wonder no further. The answer, after reading Hollywood's Copyright Wars by Peter Decherney, is definitely yes.

Eleonora Rosati informative, well-written history of developments that have profoundly shaped American culture from Edison to YouTube. Highly recommended.

Enjoyable and engrossing... insightful.... Recommended for academic lawlibraries, undergraduate libraries, and public libraries.

Jacquelyn McCloud

Any collection strong in Hollywood media issues needs this fine survey, which goes beyond the scenes to probe the decisions and actions that often take place outside the actual courtroom.

A richly detailed and compelling account that is a much-needed addition to the cultural and political history of copyright law. It is essential reading for media and communications scholars and students, but also highly recommended to anyone interested in copyright law.

Burcu Baykurt


An exemplary work.

Brian Real

List of IllustrationsAcknowledgmentsIntroduction: The Theater of Copyright1. Piracy and the Birth of Film2. Hollywood's Golden Age of Plagiarism3. Auteurism on Trial: Moral Rights and Films on Television4. Hollywood's Guerrilla War: Fair Use and Home Video5. Digital Hollywood: Too Much Control and Too Much FreedomConclusion: The Copyright Reform MovementNotesIndex