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615.2 (B) Completing the Application: Pseudonymous Works

 

615.2 (B) Completing the Application: Pseudonymous Works

 

If the author’s real name appears anywhere on the copies or phonorecords (including the copyright notice), the work is not a pseudonymous work, even if the author does not wish to reveal his or her identity in the registration record and even if the author is generally known by his or her pseudonym. 17 U.S.C. § 101 (definition of “pseudonymous work”). In this case, the applicant should provide the author’s real name in the application and the Pseudonymous box should not be checked. Likewise, a work does not qualify as a pseudonymous work based solely on the fact that the applicant cannot identify the person or persons who created the work.

 

Applicants are encouraged to provide the author’s real name in the application, even if the author’s name does not appear on the copies or phonorecords of the work. In the alternative, the applicant may provide the author’s full name and the author’s pseudonym, provided that the application clearly indicates which is the real name and which is the pseudonym (e.g., “Samuel Clemens, whose pseudonym is Mark Twain”).

 

Providing the author’s real 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 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 of the work is a natural person and if the identity of the author 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 real name in the application (even though it does not appear anywhere on the deposit copy(ies)), the registration specialist will assume that the applicant intended to reveal the author’s identity. In this situation, the specialist will not ask the applicant to check the box marked “Pseudonymous,” even if the work satisfies the statutory definition for a pseudonymous work.

 

If a fictitious name appears on the copies or phonorecords of the work, the applicant is not required to provide the author’s real name in the application. Instead, the applicant may provide the author’s pseudonym in the field marked Pseudonym (in the case of an online application) or in the Name of the Author field/space (in the case of an online or paper application). In such cases, the applicant should check the box marked “Pseudonymous” to indicate that the applicant intends to register a pseudonymous work. (If the applicant fails to complete the Pseudonym field, and fails to check the Pseudonymous box in an online application, the application will not be accepted by the electronic registration system.)

 

Although the statute states that the application shall include “the name . . . of the copyright claimant,” Congress clearly intended to give authors the ability to register their works under an assumed name. 17 U.S.C. §§ 409 (1), (3). Allowing applicants to provide a fictitious name 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 pseudonymous authors from registering their works with the Office.

 

As described in Section 615.3 below, the information provided on the application will become part of the public record. Therefore, if the work satisfies the statutory definition of a pseudonymous work, and if the author does not wish to disclose his or her real name, the applicant may provide the author’s pseudonym in the fields/spaces marked Name of Author, Name of Claimant, Rights and Permissions, Correspondent, and/or Certification, instead of providing the author’s real name.

 

Examples:

 

• Steven Kingsley is the author of a literary work titled Running Woman, which was published by New American Library. Kingsley’s name did not appear on this edition of the work.

Instead, the author was identified as “Rick Buchman.” The applicant names Rick Buchman as the author and claimant, and checks the Pseudonymous box. The Office will register the work as a pseudonymous work. In the alternative, the Office would accept an application that named the author as “Steven Kingsley, whose pseudonym is Rick Buchman” (regardless of whether the Pseudonymous box has or has not been checked).

 

• An application is submitted for a poster containing artwork and text. The applicant named “Deacon of Chocolate City” as the author of the work and checked the Pseudonymous box. Dennis Rickman is named as the copyright claimant. Because the applicant did not provide a transfer statement, the registration specialist will assume that Dennis Rickman is the author of this work, that he created this work under his pseudonym, and that the applicant intended to reveal the author’s identity in the registration record.