Marybeth Peters, the eleventh Register of Copyrights of the United States, serving from 1994 through 2011, joined the firm’s Trademark and Copyright practice groups as Senior Counsel. She spent almost 45 years in the Copyright Office, first as a music examiner, later as attorney-adviser in the Office of the General Counsel and chief of both the Information and Reference and Examining Divisions. From 1983 to 1994 she held the position of policy planning adviser to the register, focusing on policy and international issues and serving on many U.S. delegations. During 1989 and 1990 she was a consultant in copyright law at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva, Switzerland. In 1993 she served as acting general counsel of the Copyright Office. During 1976 and 1977 she had the responsibility of training the Office staff, the copyright industries, and the public in the 1976 Copyright Act. A byproduct of that training was her General Guide to that act.
During her tenure she was instrumental in the consideration and enactment of many amendments to the copyright law and testified before Congress on numerous occasions. As director of the U.S. Copyright Law, she was responsible for implementing many new laws, including The Uruguay Round Agreements Act of 1994, the 1995 Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act, the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, and The Digital Millenium Copyright Act, which included provisions legislation implementing two WIPO treaties and included a triennial Office rulemaking concerning circumvention of technological protection measures used by copyright owners to protect their works (known as the section 1201 rulemaking, as well as provisions limiting liability in certain circumstances of online service providers and protecting the design of vessel hulls. Additionally, she was responsible for a number of studies with legislative recommendations for Congress on contentious copyright law issues, such as statutory licenses, a possible exception for digital distance education, the protection of databases, and issues related to orphan works (works whose copyright owners are unlocatable).
Ms. Peters is an expert on copyright office registration practices and served as head of the Board of Reconsideration (which dealt with requests to register claims when the Examiner had refused to register the claim to copyright reflected in the application. She was also involved in litigation against her or the Office, where the Office was represented by the Department of Justice. She was deeply involved in the Google Book Settlement Litigation and the U.S. Statements of Interest which lead to the denial of the settlement.
From 1986 to 1995 Ms. Peters was a lecturer in the Communications Law Institute of The Columbus School of Law, the Catholic University of America, and previously served as adjunct professor of copyright law at The University of Miami School of Law and at The Georgetown University Law Center. In 2011 she taught a condensed course on International Copyright at John Marshall School of Law. She also is a guest lecturer at many law schools. Because of her interest in legal education, she serves on the Intellectual Property Advisory Committees of three law schools: The George Washington University Law School, the John Marshall Law School and the Franklin Pierce Intellectual Property Center of the University of New Hampshire.
Ms. Peters enjoys teaching copyright law and is a frequent speaker on copyright issues. She delivered the 1996 Horace S. Manages Lecture at Columbia University School of Law, the 2004 Brace Memorial Lecture at NYU School of Law, and the 2010 Distinguished Finnegan Lecture at the Washington College of Law, American University. She has made hundreds of presentations to bar associations, authors, publishers, motion picture and record companies, librarians, educators and to the public.