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For an anonymously registered copyright, is being in possession of the registration certificate enough to prove ownership?

New York, NY |

I would like to register a copyright anonymously by using a pseudonym for the copyright claimant, even though the copyright office advises against this. So, I wanted to know two things:

1. Is being in possession of the registration certificate enough to prove ownership of the copyright? If not, how do I prove that I'm the owner?
2. How do I enforce the copyright without revealing my identity?

Thank you very much for your help.

Attorney Answers 4

  1. There may be a number of ways to show that you are the copyright owner and being in possession of the certificate is certainly one of them.

    I think you should discuss your objectives over with a lawyer in private to make certain you are handling things properly. Most of us here, including myself, offer a free phone consult.

    Best regards,
    Natoli-Lapin, LLC
    New York, NY
    (see Disclaimer)

    The law firm of Natoli-Lapin, LLC (Home of Lantern Legal Services) offers our flat-rate legal services in the areas of business law and intellectual property to entrepreneurs, small-to-medium size businesses, independent inventors and artists across the nation and abroad. 866-871-8655 DISCLAIMER: this is not intended to be specific legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. No attorney-client relationship is formed on the basis of this posting.

  2. Very tough question. In order for you to enforce your copyright, you will likely need to file suit. If you file suit, you will likely need to identify yourself.

    The answer to this question is for informational purposes only and does not form an attorney-client relationship.

  3. It is not uncommon for authors to use pseudonyms to write and publish books. Further, it is common in such circumstances for such authors to form corporations, assign the copyright to the corporation, and file for protection under the name of the corporation. Alternatively, this can be accomplished in the agreement with publisher, which can provide that the copyright would be filed in the name of the publisher and not the author.

    But while it is possible to obtain copyright protection for a book written using a pseudonym, it is very difficult to enforce a copyright without revealing the actual author of the work. During the pre-trial discovery process, this information will need to be disclosed---the Court will make you do so if you want to win the case. Indeed, one of the problems facing some of the "copyright troll" lawyers is that some of the plaintiffs in these cases tried to hide their true identifies through various subterfuges and fraudulent devices, and they got caught doing so. Legitimate copyright claims can be lost when such shenanigans are played to avoid disclosing the real copyright owner and the real author. Thus, in my experience it is essentially impossible to enforce a copyright claim in court without revealing the true author, and attempts to hide this information or mislead the Court and opposing parties as to the true owner can lead to major problems for the plaintiff, including judicial sanctions.

  4. Short Answer: probably not.

    As my colleagues point out, at some point down the line when you are trying to assert your copyright against an infringer, you will need to disclose your identity. I would consult with a copyright attorney before taking that step. Good luck.