Peter Decherney


I am a professor of Cinema Studies and English at the University of Pennsylvania, with a secondary appointment in Communication. My research focuses on media and internet policy, especially government regulation of Hollywood.

My most recent book is Hollywood’s Copyright Wars: from Edison to the Internet (Columbia, 2012) It explores the history of film piracy, the role of plagiarism in the formation of the studio system, film directors’ campaign for “moral rights,” fair use and home video, and digital copyright. An article on early film piracy can be found here, one on Chaplin imitators can be found in this collection, and a long essay on film directors’ campaign to control the integrity of their work can be found here.

An earlier book, Hollywood and the Culture Elite: How the Movies Became American (Columbia UP, 2005), uncovers and examines collaborations between Hollywood and universities, museums, and government agencies from World War I to the Cold War.

I have also published on and frequently lecture about fair use and academia. In 2006, two colleagues and I successfully petitioned for an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for media professors using clips for teaching. In 2010 and 2012, the exemption was expanded to include students, noncommercial filmmakers, and many others. In 2011, I filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case of Golan v. Holder that discusses Hollywood’s reliance on the public domain.

Current students (and anyone interested), please click the teaching navigation link at the top of this page to see course websites with syllabi and readings.

My research has been supported most recently by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the American Council of Learned Societies.

I am the incoming co-editor (with Katherine Sender) of the journal Critical Studies of Media Communication.

In have taught as a visiting professor at Yale, Tsinghua University (Beijing), and King’s College (London).

I live outside of Philadelphia with my wife and two children.


Cinema Studies & English

University of Pennsylvania