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Maria Strong Named Acting U.S. Copyright Register Amid Search for Permanent Chief

The U.S. Copyright Office has appointed Associate Register of Copyrights Maria Strong as the new Acting Register of Copyrights effective Jan. 5, 2020, when current chief Karyn Temple steps down.

The U.S. Copyright Office has appointed Associate Register of Copyrights Maria Strong as the new acting register of copyrights effective Jan. 5, 2020, when current chief Karyn Temple steps down. 

Temple only just stepped into the official role in March, after holding the job on an acting basis for two and a half years. Strong, like Temple, was appointed by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. Temple announced last week that she would be leaving the Copyright Office to accept a role as the Motion Picture Association’s global general counsel.

“I am pleased to announce that Maria Strong has agreed to act as Register of Copyrights,” Hayden said in a statement. “Maria has had a stellar career here in the Copyright Office, and we are confident that she will ably guide the office and continue to advance its many ongoing initiatives like modernization while we undertake the search for a permanent appointee.”

Added Temple: “Maria Strong is an extremely talented lawyer and manager, and I have greatly enjoyed working with her over the years. She will serve the Copyright Office and the public well during this transition.”

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Strong was appointed to her previous role, associate register and director of policy and international affairs, in April. Prior to that, she served as deputy director of policy and international affairs since January 2015. She joined the Copyright Office in 2010 as senior counsel for policy and international affairs, and also served as acting general counsel from April to July 2013.

Now, Strong will serve as Acting Register while Hayden conducts a search for a permanent Register. The job includes directing the procedures and practices of the Copyright Office, establishing standards for copyright registration, and increasingly, influencing U.S. copyright policy.

While the process of appointing a new Register has historically been straightforward — the Copyright Office is part of the Library of Congress, in the legislative branch, and the Register is appointed by the Librarian — it became controversial after Hayden removed former Register Maria Pallante in 2016. The Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017 aimed to make the position a presidential appointee and while it passed the House of Representatives in April 2017, it didn’t get enough support to pass in the Senate.

Strong takes the helm at a time when copyright is becoming an increasingly contentious topic in the music industry, and as the Copyright Office is tasked with overseeing the Mechanical Licensing Collective, mandated to collect mechanical royalties under last year’s Music Modernization Act.

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Keith Kupferschmid, CEO of the Copyright Alliance nonprofit representing artistic creators, voiced his support for Strong in a statement, calling her a “thoughtful, knowledgeable and experienced stalwart on copyright law and policy.”  

“Maria and I have known one another for more than 20 years, so I take great pleasure in seeing her recognized for her impressive career, which includes nearly ten years at the Copyright Office,” he said. “At this crucial time, when the Office is undergoing a complete modernization of its systems and processes and making changes to its registration system and other services, Maria’s thoughtful and steady approach will benefit all users of the Copyright Office as the search for the next permanent Register gets underway.”