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AG Saddened by the Loss of Marybeth Peters, Former Head of the U.S. Copyright Office

We are sad to learn that Marybeth Peters passed away on Thursday, September 29, at the age of 83. She devoted forty-five years of her life to public service, eventually rising to head the U.S. Copyright Office as Register of Copyrights at the Library of Congress, a post she held for sixteen years.

“Marybeth was a true friend of the Authors Guild. Her view of copyright was that, first and foremost, it should benefit authors and creators. She championed published writers always and made it her life’s work,” said Mary Rasenberger, CEO of the Authors Guild. “She was also a personal friend and mentor and will be enormously missed by the entire copyright community.”

Peters made considerable advancements in U.S. copyright law, including helping to implement the Copyright Act of 1976 and developing the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). She also built strong relationships with international colleagues, serving as a consultant for the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and negotiating and implementing WIPO’s Internet Treaties, which established international standards for preventing unauthorized use of creative work online.

As Register of Copyrights, Peters testified before Congress numerous times and delivered policy studies and recommendations on a wide range of statutory questions. She also oversaw the first-phase modernization of the copyright registration system from paper to digital processes.

Born and raised in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, she attended Rhode Island College and became a teacher before receiving her law degree from The George Washington University Law School. A longtime member and former trustee of the Copyright Society of the USA, she received numerous recognitions and awards, including the Los Angeles Copyright Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the New Jersey Intellectual Property Law Association’s Jefferson Medal, and the American Bar Association Section of Intellectual Property Law’s inaugural Mark T. Banner Award.

Peters was a gifted orator and teacher, delivering many prestigious lectures, including the 1996 Horace S. Manges Lecture at Columbia Law School, the 2004 Donald C. Brace Memorial Lecture at New York University School of Law, the 2009 Charles Clark Memorial Lecture at the London Book Fair, and the 2010 Christopher Meyer Lecture at The George Washington University Law School.

Upon her retirement from the Library of Congress in 2010, Peters received letters recognizing her dedication to public service from Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush (on behalf of himself and the Bush family), Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama.

Peters will be fondly remembered by all who knew her for her warmth, generous spirit, and sense of humor. She loved to tell a good story, accompanied by her full-bellied laugh that often filled the halls of the Copyright Office.