615.1 (B) Completing the Application: Anonymous Works
Applicants are encouraged to provide the author’s name in the application, even if the author’s name does not appear on the copies or phonorecords of the work. Providing the author’s name creates a clear record of authorship and ownership of the copyright, and it may extend or reduce the term of the copyright, depending on the circumstances. Ordinarily, the copyright for an anonymous 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). If the author’s 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.
If the applicant provides the author’s name in the application, the registration specialist will assume that the applicant intended to reveal the author’s identity. Generally, the specialist will not ask the applicant to check the box marked “Anonymous,” even if the work satisfies the statutory definition for an anonymous work.
If the author’s name does not appear on the copies or phonorecords of the work, the applicant is not required to provide the author’s name in the application. Instead, the applicant may leave the Name of the Author field/space blank and check the box marked “Anonymous.” (If the applicant fails to provide the author’s name and fails to check the Anonymous box in an online application, the application will not be accepted by the electronic registration system.)
If the applicant does not provide the author’s name, the applicant should identify the year that the work was created, and if the work has been published, the applicant should provide the date of publication. In addition, the applicant should provide the author’s nation of citizenship and/or nation of domicile, even if the author’s name has not been disclosed. The Office may use this information to determine if the work is eligible for copyright protection in the United States. If the applicant fails to provide this information, the application may be questioned.
The statute states that the application shall include “the name . . . of the copyright claimant.” 17 U.S.C. §§ 409 (1), (3). But Congress also intended to give authors the ability to register their works anonymously. Allowing applicants to state “anonymous” in one part of the application, while requiring them to disclose the author’s real name in the other, would undermine that objective and discourage anonymous authors from registering their works with the Office.
As described in Section 615.3 below, the information provided on the application becomes part of the public record. Therefore, if the work satisfies the statutory definition of an anonymous work, and if the author does not wish to disclose his or her real name anywhere in the application, the applicant may state “Anonymous” in the fields/spaces marked Name of Author, Name of Claimant, Rights and Permissions, Correspondent, and Certification, instead of providing the author’s real name.
• Joseph Cline is the author of a literary work titled Prime Color. Cline’s name did not appear on the first edition of the work. Instead, the first edition stated that the work was written “By Anonymous.” The U.S. Copyright Office will register the first edition as an anonymous work if the applicant identifies the author as “Anonymous” and/or checks the Anonymous box. In the alternative, the Office would accept an application that names Joseph Cline as the author (regardless of whether the Anonymous box has or has not been checked).