Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden this week named Karyn Temple as the 13th United States Register of Copyrights, the first person of color to hold the position.
Temple had been serving as Acting Register of Copyrights since October, 2016, when Hayden abruptly removed the previous Register, Maria Pallante (now the president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers). Temple has since garnered positive reviews from legislators, as well as a wide range of stakeholders in the copyright realm, and from Hayden.
“Karyn has done a superb job as Acting Register for the last two-and-a-half years, leveraging her skills as both a copyright lawyer and accomplished manager to provide excellent leadership for the Copyright Office,” said Hayden in a statement announcing the appointment.
Prior to her appointment as Acting Register, Temple had served since 2013 as Associate Register of Copyrights and Director of Policy and International Affairs at the Copyright Office. In that role, she oversaw the office’s domestic and international policy analyses, legislative support, and international negotiations. Before joining the Copyright Office in 2011, Temple served as senior counsel to the Deputy Attorney General of the United States, where she helped manage the Department of Justice’s Task Force on Intellectual Property.
Coming after more than two years of intense work,Temple's appointment also suggests a thaw in what had become a fraught political battle over the Register of Copyrights position. After Pallante's sudden removal caused dismay within the content industries, where she was seen as an ally, the House in April of 2017 passed the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act (HR 1695), which proposed to take the register of copyrights position out of the purview of the Librarian of Congress—something Pallante had advocated for during her time as Register.
Supporters of HR 1695 insisted the bill was necessary to help “modernize” the Copyright Office. The bill's opponents, however, said it was a thinly veiled effort to block Hayden—who had been portrayed by some in the content industries as an "anti-copyright" librarian—from appointing a permanent replacement to Pallante. But after being rushed through the House in a matter of weeks in 2017, the bill failed to advance in the Senate.
The timing of Temple's permanent appointment also makes sense considering that a major piece of copyright reform for the digital age, the Music Modernization Act, signed into law last year, will require intense effort to implement and administer.
Temple's eventual appointment was not unexpected in copyright circles, and a Library of Congress oversight hearing before the Senate Committee on Rules & Administration on March 6 fueled speculation that Temple might soon be given the appointment. At that hearing (check in around the 41:00 minute mark) Hayden praised the work done by Temple at the Copyright Office, twice making the point of how difficult it is to do such good work in an "acting" capacity. Temple is then invited to address the committee by chairman Roy Blunt (R-MO), who offered a telling remark:
"We thought at one time there was a potential for even more independence in the direction and the choice [of the Register]," Blunt said, "but certainly all reports have been that Dr. Hayden’s choice was a really good one."