Many authors choose to publish their literary works under a pen name in order to remain anonymous. Throughout history, women have published books under male pen names to hide their gender, while some authors have used pen names to write outside of their established genre. Others may simply use a pen name to protect their privacy and keep their personal life separate from any literary fame they may achieve.
The good news is that authors can still receive copyright protection under a fictitious pen name. When filing for a copyright, you will have a choice to provide the Copyright Office with your real name, or you can keep it entirely off the paperwork.
- If you do choose to provide your real name, you will enter your name as the “Copyright Claimant” and use your pen name for “Name of Author.” Your real name can never be removed from the records once it’s given, so it’s a wise idea to talk over your choice with a copyright attorney to ensure you are making the best decision. If you are granted copyright protection, it will last for your lifetime plus 70 years after your death.
- Or, you can keep your real name off the legal papers entirely. Going this route will provide you with copyright protection for 95 years from the time the work is published or 120 years from the time it is written. If you choose this option, you may add your real name at a later date. It’s important to note that there are drawbacks to keeping your real name off the paperwork, as it could interfere with reprint rights, family inheritance rights, and future royalties.
If you choose to publish under a pen name, your copyright attorney may advise you to take additional steps that will allow you to protect your anonymity without creating unnecessary legal or business troubles down the road.
For example, when signing contracts with a literary agent, you may need to have the contract list out both your pen name and your real name for it to be valid. You may also need to disclose your real name and pen name to your bank so that you do not have trouble cashing checks or accessing bank accounts.
Our copyright attorneys can guide you through the process of not only protecting your work but also ensuring that your pen name is being used in such a way that protects your privacy without sabotaging any current or future financial benefits. If you would like assistance getting started, simply contact our New York or South Carolina intellectual property attorneys at 888-666-0062 to schedule a consultation.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney.
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