Tribute Blog in Memory of Former Register of Copyrights Marybeth Peters

Photo Credit: U.S. Copyright Office

The Copyright Alliance, along with countless members of the copyright community, warmly remembers former Register of Copyrights Marybeth Peters, who passed away on September 29 at the age of 83. During her storied career, former Register Peters led the U.S. Copyright Office for 16 years—from 1994 to 2010—and dedicated 40-plus years of her career to copyright policy and leadership. She was a distinguished attorney who was broadly respected around the world, as well as a leading expert on U.S. and international copyright law. During her tenure at the Copyright Office, former Register Peters was instrumental in many important initiatives, including helping to implement the 1976 Copyright Act and the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which serve as cornerstones of today’s copyright law. She was a true leader of the copyright community, and over the years, she touched many lives, both personally and professionally.

For anyone who would like to make a donation, a memorial fund has been established in her name at the Intellectual Property Program at George Washington University Law School; and you can read former Register Peters’ obituary.

Below are testimonials from members of the copyright community, both individuals and organizations, who collectively mourn former Register Peters’ passing and celebrate her life and legacy.

*To read longer quotes, please click on the URLs attached to individual and organization names (where included).

Individual Testimonials

Marybeth will be greatly missed. She leaves an enormous legacy in the copyright community. I was so fortunate to have known her and to have had the opportunity to learn from her and laugh with her.  We at CCC join with those who knew Marybeth in celebrating all that she shared with us as a friend, a mentor, a teacher, and a leader.

— Tracey Armstrong, President & CEO, Copyright Clearance Center

Marybeth Peters led the U.S. Copyright Office and the copyright world through the transition to the digital age, playing a leading role in formulating domestic and international copyright policy and legislation to address digital issues and leading the transition from a paper-based copyright registration system to an online process. It was the greatest privilege and honor of my professional life to work for and with Marybeth for 13 years. Her knowledge of copyright law was unparalleled, her ability to navigate the legislative landscape was masterful, her empathy was palpable, and her sense of humor, in good times and bad, was uplifting. Going into the office every day to work with Marybeth was not a job; it was fun! I am proud to have been able to call her a mentor, a colleague, and a dear friend.

 – David Carson, Copyright Claims Board Member and former U.S. Copyright Office General Counsel and Associate Register for Policy and International Affairs

Marybeth was that rare person who was able to hold a position of significant responsibility that comes with a good dose of politics and carry off the enterprise with both seriousness of purpose and a sense of humor. To hear her unmistakable, high-pitched laugh across a crowded room of IP lawyers somehow reassured everyone that no issue was so dire it couldn’t be worked out. She had a razor-sharp understanding of the law and politics of copyright, and how to navigate the two, but used her knowledge to inspire rather than intimidate. She was tremendously encouraging to aspiring attorneys in her field, especially women. It is no exaggeration to say Marybeth changed the course of my life by suggesting that I apply for a job in the Copyright Office. I am forever in her debt.  

Jacqueline C. Charlesworth, Principal, Charlesworth Law

Marybeth was an undisputed giant of the copyright community. Her influence on copyright law, in the U.S. and around the world, will be felt for many years to come. But we will also remember her as a devoted member and friend of the Copyright Society, a mainstay of our national meetings, whose annual address, The View from the Copyright Office, was both enormously informative and reliably entertaining. She was a wise and dedicated mentor, an inspiring role model, and a personal friend to many of us. We will miss her and cherish her memory forever.

— Casey Chisick, President of the Copyright Society

We are deeply saddened to hear of Register Peters passing. She was a champion of the copyright system, and deeply admired for her keen intellect, and caring and gregarious demeanor.  Marybeth will be greatly missed by the entire creative community.

Vince Garlock, Executive Director, American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA) 

Marybeth Peters spent a professional life committed to promoting and protecting copyright so that her country could enjoy the fruits of its creativity and intellectual labors. Marybeth was a wonderfully multi-faceted woman. To the copyright community, she was a figurehead, an éminence grise and a walking encyclopedia of copyright law. To Congress, she was an honest, skilled, and unapologetic advocate of copyrights. To her colleagues at the US Copyright Office, she was trusted leader. To me – she was a cherished mentor.  How lucky am I to have been graced by her intellect, good humor, and generous spirit.

— Marla Grossman, Partner, American Continental Group

Marybeth Peters contributed as much as anyone to modern day copyright law. Her commitment to crafting meaningful reforms has had a lasting impact and will continue to shape how creators work is valued and protected. We owe her a debt of gratitude for her efforts to safeguard the ideas of songwriters and beyond, and while she will be missed, her legacy will continue.

— David Israelite, President and CEO, National Music Publishers Association (NMPA)

As I pause to consider what to say in my tribute to Marybeth, I realize that whatever I put down on paper will fall well short of how important she was to the copyright and creative communities and how she left an indelible impression on so many copyright attorneys and creators. Everyone Marybeth encountered could not help but fall in love with her. She was friend to everyone in the copyright world, regardless of what position they may have taken on the copyright issues of the day—which is a rarity these days. She was a mentor to so many young attorneys—attorneys who have now grown up and are taking what they learned from Marybeth and paying it forward to a new group of young attorneys—forever cementing Marybeth’s legacy in the copyright history books. I consider myself extremely fortunate and honored to have worked for and alongside Marybeth for so many years and to experience and be the beneficiary of her wit, wisdom, tutelage, friendship, and of course, her trademark belly laugh. Her life story is a testament to what someone can accomplish through hard work, perseverance, and kindness to others. It is fairly common knowledge that she worked her way up from the lowest rungs of the Copyright Office to eventually become the Register of Copyrights. But what may not be so well known are all the biases and prejudices she experienced as a young, single divorcee. I myself was not aware of the obstacles she faced until many years ago when we were sitting together at an event and she started telling me about a few of these challenges. To me, she was amazing before I knew all this. But, after that night, I realized that Marybeth was a true luminary in every way possible.

Keith Kupferschmid, CEO, Copyright Alliance

From the time I first met Marybeth upon my joining the Copyright Office General Counsel staff in 1977, I knew that she was a very special person. Throughout her long and storied career, Marybeth was the Office’s Swiss-Army Knife. I marveled at the depth of her knowledge, skills, leadership, and her ability to tackle new challenges in her many roles at the Copyright Office during a period of significant technological change. Marybeth made so many contributions to the creators and the copyright Community, from being a member of the General Counsel’s Office, as Chief of the Information and Reference Division, as Chief of the Examining Division, as one of the original Policy Planning Advisors to the Register, and finally as Register of Copyrights. I also was very fortunate and honored to work with Marybeth as we co-taught “Copyright Problems of the Media” at the Catholic University School of Law, and “Copyright Law” (along with David Ladd and Lewis Flacks) at the University of Miami School of Law during the ‘80s. Marybeth was made to be [the] Register of Copyrights and had many of the same wonderful qualities of former Register of Copyrights Barbara Ringer. Marybeth’s accomplishments were many, but what I will remember most was her sense of friendship, humor, humility, collegiality, even-handedness, mentorship, and dedication. While Marybeth’s passing in very sad, we can all celebrate her magnificent life and career.

— David Leibowitz, Managing Partner, CH Potomac 

One of the first people I met when I began working in the field was Marybeth. How lucky I was!  Marybeth was not only full of the knowledge and expertise one would expect from the Register of Copyrights, but was supremely kind, helpful and encouraging.  Her long tenure at the Copyright Office gave her unparalleled institutional knowledge which allowed her to steer the Office with confidence, having a clear vision of what the Office could be and seeing what challenges it had yet to overcome.  But above all, I will remember Marybeth’s laugh.  People say smiles light up the room, but Marybeth’s laugh had the wattage of a thousand smiles.  It was deep and full and conveyed how pleased she was to be among friends.  I will miss her, and her laugh, greatly.  My sincere condolences to her family. 

Pippa Loengard, Director, Kernochan Center for Law, Media & the Arts and Lecturer-in-Law at Columbia Law School

I became the Register of Copyrights in 1985, and I had the good fortune to inherit an extraordinary team of senior advisors that my predecessor David Ladd had assembled—Marybeth Peters, Lewis Flacks, and Chris Meyer. As my Policy Planning Advisors, they helped me set U.S. Copyright Office priorities and explained those priorities to the copyright community. Marybeth knew everybody. She had the longest tenure in the Office and the widest experience. She was our ambassador to the Copyright Society. She had been a backdoor advisor to Chairman Kastenmeier during the revision process and, after enactment, she embarked on a nationwide lecture tour to explain the provisions of the ’76 Act to the public at large. That detailed knowledge of the law made her an indispensable resource, both within the Office and to the copyright bar. She served as a panelist and keynoter on countless occasions, and her lively persona and solid legal analysis made her our most popular and sought-after speaker. Marybeth was an accomplished musician, and she considered pursuing a career in music at Julliard in New York. Her aunt was on the faculty [there] and gave her niece some candid advice. ‘You are very good,’ she said, ‘but you are not exceptional.’ So, Marybeth went to law school at George Washington University, while working as a Copyright Office examiner in the music division. It is a measure of her legal acumen and her high energy level that she graduated from GW with high honors despite having a demanding full-time job. Julliard’s loss was our gain, and Marybeth made her indelible mark, not as a performer, but in the law. She was always very generous with her time. After I retired and she became Register, she served as a guest lecturer in my advanced copyright seminar at GW Law School on several occasions. She always made copyright law and policy come alive for the students and made them all want to become copyright lawyers and help [creators] protect their rights…It’s hard to believe that her radiant smile and her whoop of a laugh are no longer with us. She was larger than life, and I am grateful that I had the pleasure of working with her for all those years. Thank you, Marybeth, and may you rest in peace.

Ralph Oman, former Register of Copyrights, U.S. Copyright Office

Marybeth was a giant in the field of copyright law and both inspiring and imposing at the helm of the Copyright Office. She was endlessly interested in meeting new people, especially creative people, and had a way of drawing practitioners, including me, into periods of government service. Her achievements—as a distinguished legal expert, public official, and chief executive officer—are unique and significant, and they will serve authors and the global public for generations to come. Likewise, she will long be remembered for her kindness, humility, and joyful sense of humor. I was privileged to work for her twice and honored to call her a close friend.

Maria A. Pallante, CEO, AAP, and former Register of Copyrights

No one who knew Marybeth will ever forget her.  She combined an unparalleled depth and breadth of copyright expertise with warmth and empathy, and an openness devoid of ego.  She devoted her professional life to the Copyright Office, forged long-lasting bonds here, and steered us through often tumultuous times with steady grace.  It is deeply touching but not surprising that so many people from around the world have reached out to share their sorrow at her loss.  I am only one of those whose careers she inspired and shaped, and I will always be grateful.

Shira Perlmutter, Register of Copyrights and Director of the U.S. Copyright Office  

At the time of her retirement from the Copyright Office in December 2010, several of us wrote tributes to Marybeth Peters to express our appreciation for her 45 years of public service and to detail her career, her accomplishments and her remarkable talents. The tributes were published in the Journal of the Copyright Society of the USA. Here is my tribute from 2010. It encapsulates Marybeth’s life, career, personality, and friendships, and illustrates why so many of us feel so profoundly sad by her passing. We have lost not only an articulate advocate for authors and creators, but a really good friend, with a warm smile and an unforgettable laugh.

Eric Schwartz, Partner, MSK LLP, in a Copyright Society Journal Article

We’re saddened today to learn of the passing of my colleague and mentor Marybeth Peters, the 11th United States Register of Copyrights and Director of the U.S. Copyright Office. Register Peters was an unparalleled expert on copyright law and policy, and a true giant in the copyright community as a friend, scholar and mentor to many. Part of Marybeth’s lasting legacy will always be her work to implement the 1976 Copyright Act and the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which are both fundamental parts of modern U.S. copyright law. She was also an inspiring leader and educator, instrumental in developing numerous copyright-focused legal groups and teaching copyright law at several law schools around the country. Our thoughts are with her family and the larger copyright legal community during this time.

Karyn Temple, Senior Executive Vice President and Global General Counsel, Motion Picture Association and former Register of Copyrights

Marybeth was herself an engine for/of free expression. A brave champion of creators who didn’t disguise her dreams and wouldn’t allow others to darken her skies. She had a unique way of turning what seemed like irrational optimism & exuberance into accepted reality. It was my great fortune to call her my friend for over 30 years. I already miss her and hope to continue her legacy by challenging ignorance and believing in the power of speaking truth without regard to the perceived odds.

— Neil Turkewitz, Arts Advocate

Marybeth Peters was the Register of Copyrights for much of my career as a copyright lawyer. She is one of the reasons that I love copyright law. As Register, not only was she a walking encyclopedia of all things copyright she was one of the most welcoming, approachable, and generous people you could meet. She was passionate about copyright and the Office, and truly tried to make the registration process work for as many creators as possible. I worked with her on improving registration practices for photographers, as well as on creating registration strategies for stock photography catalogs and online databases. She was always so generous with her time and knowledge. Each year, I looked forward to the “Views of the Copyright Office,” a Copyright Office update she gave to Copyright Society members at the annual meeting, as well as to the ABA IP Section Copyright Division. She always had a smile on her face and a good sense of humor, even when holding up an example of a completely disintegrated and charred application recovered during the “Anthrax” period, when all applications (only paper forms then) had to be sent offsite for radiation! I will miss her smile, her amazing red hair, and her friendship. I am grateful for all the years she graciously served as Register.

Nancy Wolff, Partner at Cowan DeBaets Abrahams & Sheppard, LLP

Marybeth Peters was a true pioneer—as a lawyer, as an Intellectual Property thought leader and as a public servant. Unlike many who purport to serve the public, she never lost sight of who she worked for or why her work mattered to so many. With charm, integrity and a razor wit, Marybeth consistently executed her duties with conviction and courage—two qualities much needed but seldom found today. She will be missed by those who were blessed to know and work with her. But her smile, laugh, example and legacy will provide us comfort along with the knowledge there are millions around the world who still benefit from her life’s work.

— David Whitney, Former Intellectual Property Enforcement Counsel, Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property, Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. House of Representatives
Photo Credit: Isabella Hyun

Statements by Organizations

The publishing community is deeply saddened by the loss of former Register of Copyrights Marybeth Peters, who devoted more than four decades to domestic and international copyright law, led the U.S. Copyright Office for a remarkable 16 years, advised numerous Members of Congress on legal and policy questions, including treaty implementation, and encouraged countless copyright careers across government and the private sector. During her long tenure, Ms. Peters helped to implement both the 1976 Copyright Act and the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which together constitute the foundation of our present-day copyright system.  She championed numerous, additional improvements—both statutory and regulatory—through rigorous studies and testimony. We send our sincere condolences to Marybeth’s extended family, friends, and everyone who admired her.

— Association of American Publishers (AAP)

All of us at ASCAP are mourning Marybeth Peters today. As the Register of Copyrights from 1994-2010, Marybeth helped to implement critical copyright laws impacting music creators. Her support of the music community will continue to be felt for decades. Rest well, Marybeth.


For reasons too numerous to count, Marybeth will be sorely missed and will long be remembered as a true leader and champion for the copyright world. There’s no doubt that her legacy will live on to inspire those who follow on her path. 

Copyright Alliance  

With great sadness, we mourn the passing of Marybeth Peters. Marybeth leaves a remarkable legacy. Her vast knowledge of copyright law, and the diverse communities it serves, was the foundation for her leadership as Register of Copyrights and Director of the U.S. Copyright Office from 1994-2010.  CCC was enormously honored to have Marybeth serve on our Board of Directors upon her retirement from public service.

Copyright Clearance Center

The Copyright Society is deeply saddened by the passing of former United States Register of Copyrights Marybeth Peters, who died yesterday after a long illness. Ms. Peters, who led the U.S. Copyright Office from 1994 through 2010, will be remembered for immeasurable contributions to U.S. copyright law. In a distinguished career that spanned more than four decades, she helped implement both the 1976 Copyright Act, which still forms the backbone of U.S. copyright law, and the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which was instrumental to responding to the challenges of new technologies. She was known around the world for her expertise in both domestic and international copyright law and championed many important initiatives to streamline and modernize U.S. Copyright Office practice.

— Copyright Society

C-IP2 is saddened by the death of former Register of Copyrights Marybeth Peters—an accomplished and inspiring copyright lawyer who led the U.S. Copyright Office from 1994-2010. Register Peters began her love affair with copyright on Valentine’s Day of 1966 with her appointment as a music examiner in the former Music Section of the Examining Division. She held numerous positions at all levels in the Copyright Office, ultimately culminating with her role as Register. Register Peters’ contributions to the law are enshrined in the Copyright Act, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and the numerous regulations implementing them. Her wise counsel will live on in untold hours of advice rendered to Members of Congress, various administration officials, and the many authors, practitioners and scholars who make their careers in the copyright world.


Marybeth Peters’ diligence and vision helped intellectual property owners and licensees navigate through a time of change as the internet came of age. Her early recognition of and contributions to needed reforms for music licensing in the digital age were critical to laying the groundwork for Congress’ eventual passage of the Music Modernization Act and the economic comeback story of the music industry. To Marybeth’s family, friends, and those who worked with her, we share our condolences while recognizing her immense legacy of support for an efficient, fair, and modern copyright system.

Digital Media Association

The ESA offers condolences to family and friends of former United States Register of Copyrights Marybeth Peters, who died yesterday after a long illness. The entertainment & video game industries will be forever impacted by her leadership and expertise.

Entertainment Software Association (ESA) 

[Former Register Peters] was a gifted public servant, whose work to find consensus helped diverse stakeholders find common ground…Here’s a video of her appearance at our 2007 conference.

Future of Music Coalition 

Marybeth Peters was respected across the United States and around the world for her encyclopedic knowledge of copyright law. As the leader of the Copyright Office, her dedication to the fundamental role of copyright as a driver of creativity and economic growth helped contribute to a copyright system that supports industries which add more than $1.3 trillion to the American economy every year. Her loss is deeply felt throughout the American creative sectors.

Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC)

We mourn the loss of former Register of Copyright Marybeth Peters. Her dedication to the Copyright Office and copyright law was inspiring, and her legacy will live on for generations to come.

— Kernochan Center

Former Register of Copyrights Marybeth Peters was a brilliant and wonderful person who dedicated her life to protecting creators. We mourn her passing and are grateful for all she did for artists and everyone who supports them.


The Songwriters Guild of America (SGA), Music Creators North America (MCNA), and the Congressionally chartered National Music Council of the United States (NMC) join the world music community in mourning the passing of our friend and colleague, Mary Beth Peters. Her stalwart leadership of the US Copyright Office, as well as her consistent, demonstrated concern for the rights of music creators in the US and around the world, were deeply appreciated by all.  More than even that, her sense of humor and warmth made her a pleasure to work with.  She helped set the tone for an era during which cooperation among the members of the copyright bar was at a high point, and her friendly style of stewardship is and will always be dearly missed.

— SGA, MCNA, and NMC

On September 29, 2022, the copyright community lost a friend, advocate, and scholar when Marybeth Peters passed away peacefully in her sleep at the age of 83. Having served the Copyright Office for more than four decades in numerous capacities, including as the Office’s head, she was a global authority on copyright law and a well-known and well-loved presence in the world of copyright. Her passing marks the loss of an influential force in the development of copyright law and an unparalleled source of expertise. Throughout her long tenure as the Register of Copyrights, Peters was sought after by Congress, as well as by scholars and copyright industries, for her vision and analysis.

U.S. Copyright Office

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