Copyright Compendium

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Chapter 2400

1106.5 (E) Anonymous and Pseudonymous Works

 

1106.5 (E) Anonymous and Pseudonymous Works

 

A work is “anonymous” if the author is not identified on the copies or phonorecords of that work. A work is “pseudonymous” if the author is identified on the copies or phonorecords solely by a fictitious name, pen name, stage name, or other pseudonym. If the author’s real name appears on the copies or phonorecords, the work is neither anonymous nor pseudonymous, even if the author does not want to reveal his or her identity in the registration record.

 

Applicants may register a group of anonymous works or pseudonymous works with this option. But to do so, the works must be identified as such in the application, and all of the works must be created anonymously or they must be created under the same pseudonym. 37 C.F.R. § 202.4 (C) (6). For example, an applicant could register four stories by “Anonymous” or four stories by “Mark Twain” (a.k.a. Samuel Clemens), but an applicant could not register all of these stories with the same application.

 

If the author’s name does not appear on any of the works – ” and if the author does not want to reveal his or her identity in the registration record – ” the applicant should check the box indicating that the works were created anonymously. The term “Anonymous” will be added automatically to the field for the author’s “First Name.” The field for the Author’s “Last Name” should be left blank.

 

If the author’s pseudonym appears on all of the works – ” and if the author does not want to reveal his or her identity in the registration record – ” the applicant should check the box indicating that the works are pseudonymous, and should provide the author’s pseudonym in the fields for the author’s “First Name” and “Last Name.”

 

Ordinarily, the copyright for an anonymous or pseudonymous work endures for a term of 95 years from the year of publication or 120 years from the year of creation, whichever expires first. 17 U.S.C. § 302 (C). However, if the author’s real name or identity is revealed in the registration record, the copyright will endure until 70 years after the author’s death. Id.; see also H.R. REP. NO. 94-1476, at 137 (1976), reprinted in 1976 U.S.C.C.A.N. 5659, 5753.

 

IMPORTANT NOTE: If the author does not want to reveal his or her identity in the

registration record, the applicant should not include the author’s real name anywhere in the application, including the Author/Claimant, Correspondent, Mail Certificate, and Certification screens. If the author’s real name is included in the application it will become part of the public record, and it cannot be removed once the U.S. Copyright Office has issued a registration.

 

If the author wants to reveal his or her identity in the registration record, the applicant should enter the author’s first and last name in the fields provided, and the boxes for anonymous and pseudonymous works should be left blank. If the author would like to include his or her legal name and pseudonym in the registration record, the applicant should do the following:

 

• Provide the author’s legal name in the “First Name/Last Name” fields.

 

• Leave the Pseudonym box unchecked.

 

• Provide the author’s pseudonym in the “Note to Copyright Office” field on the certification screen. For example, the applicant may state “Author’s pseudonym ‘Mark Twain’ appears on the copies of these works.”

 

For additional guidance on pseudonyms, consult the help text that accompanies the GRUW application.

 

If some – ” but not all – ” of the works are anonymous or pseudonymous, the applicant may register all of the works with the same application. But to do so, the author must disclose his or her identity in the registration record. For example, if the author created three paintings, and if her real name appears on the first painting, her pseudonym appears on the second, and no name appears on the third, the paintings could be registered together. But the author would have to include her real name in the registration record for all three paintings.

 

For additional information concerning anonymous and pseudonymous works, see Chapter 600, Section 615.