Using a DBA name for anonymity, copyright, and income

Asked about 5 years ago - Ontario, CA

I want to use an alias for a website I'm creating so that I can remain anonymous, or as close to anonymous as I can get. The site will have reviews and comics. I will create the comics and will want to retain a copyright. The reviews could potentially be syndicated. I will receive monies from this endeavor. My questions:

1. Will a DBA name allow me to remain anonymous, retain copyrights as attributed to the DBA name, receive monies paid to the DBA?
2. If not then what would?
3. If nothing then how close can I get to my plan above?

Thanks!

Attorney answers (3)

  1. J Anthony Vittal

    Contributor Level 10

    4

    Best Answer
    chosen by asker

    Answered . As Erik Syverson notes, because the WhoIs registry shows the name of the domain registrant and names and contact information for the administrative and technical contacts for the domain, a proxy registration would obscure that information.

    As to the other issues, to amplify Bruce Beal's response, if you use a fictitious business name (a "dba"), you would have to file a Fictitious Business Name Statement in San Bernardino County (since you are based in Ontario), and publish it in a newspaper of general circulation in that county. As a public record, the Fictitious Business Name Statement would reveal your name and address. If you operate as a corporation or a limited liability company ("LLC"), required filings (also public records) will reveal the names of and contact information for the officers and directors of a corporation and the members of an LLC.

    The only effective way to obscure your involvement would be to organize your business as a corporation and to have persons other than yourself (ideally persons who do not share your family name and your address) serve as the officers and directors of the corporation. You still can own all of the shares of the corporation. If the corporation is formed as a California corporation, the notice of issuance of securities that must be filed with the Department of Corporations does not disclose the identity of the person(s) to whom the shares are issued.

    You will need to consult with copyright counsel to create appropriate licensing/royalty agreements between you and the corporation so that you can be compensated by the corporation (which would have to own the copyrights to your comics so that your name would not appear on the copyright notices or in filings with the Copyrights Office) for income generated by your comics. You also will need to consult with tax counsel or your tax advisor(s) to assist you in determining whether the corporation should make an "S" election (to treat the corporation for tax purposes as a partnership, so that income and losses would pass through to the shareholder) and how best to structure your own business relationship with the corporation so that you can receive monies earned by the corporation.

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    Disclaimer: Please note that this answer does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts, documents, and/or other materials involved. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship.

  2. Bruce Leonard Beal

    Contributor Level 9

    Answered . If someone really wants to discover an individual behind such an effort, they can. If you want to make it harder, a dba doesn't work as you need to provide your individual name in order to register it, which becomes a public record, unless you use a mere alias.

    Also, when you show your copyright notice, as you should, on your materials, you must legally use the owner's true name in the notice. Therefore, you should organize as a corporation or LLC (which, beware, has a minimum $800 annual franchise tax in California), and transfer all rights in the materials, or create all of the materials, in the name of the entity.

    IMPORTANT: No client confidential or other attorney-client relationship is created through my Avvo response. Nothing in my Avvo response constitutes legal advice or legal opinion that you may rely in any way. Your matter may result in a loss of rights if you do not timely obtain an attorney.

  3. Erik Swen Syverson

    Contributor Level 8

    Answered . While not great protection of anonymity, obviously you should register the domain as private through a proxy service.

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