Copyrighting and pen names

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by mephistopheles, Oct 7, 2006.

  1. mephistopheles

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    I have a big important question about copy righting:

    If an author writes under a pen name is the story/book copy righted to his pen name or his real name? And if I'm way off, does anyone know how this stuff works?

    Does the story/book get copyrighted to the author or t the publishing house?
     
  2. D_alex8

    D_alex8 Member

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    The copyright of any item of intellectual property belongs to whoever is identified and named as the copyright holder, which can be an author (this is most common with regard to written works), a publishing house, an estate, a legal representative, etc.

    One is permitted to copyright a piece of intellectual property to a pen name or pseudonym; if you fill out a formal registration of copyright within the US, be sure to tick the checkbox marked 'pseudonym' [see also: http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl101.html]. However, there is no need to fill out such a formal registration to assert your copyright, although doing so brings considerable added protection against infringements, and may be deemed de facto necessary in certain media (music and film in particular within the arts; the lack of formalized copyright declarations is one reason why so many low-budget movies from the 1930s thru 1970s have fallen into the 'public domain' in the US).

    The only difference under US law between pseudonymously copyrighted works and those copyrighted under one's real name is the duration of the copyright. In the case of works copyrighted under one's legal name, copyright lasts for the lifetime of the author plus seventy years; while in the case of pseudonymously copyrighted works, the copyright lasts for 95 years from first publication, or else 120 years from the provable genesis of the work (in the case that this differed significantly from the date of first publication). However :rolleyes:, if you subsequently become identified under your real name as the author of a piece copyrighted pseudonymously, the copyright will pass over to you under your real name, with the lifetime+70 years rule taking precedence. Confused yet? :eek: :biggrin1:

    It can sometimes be useful to trademark a pen name, or else to set up a dummy company that you use for copyright purposes if you are concerned about getting the full protection of lifetime+70 years and being able to pursue possible infringements against pseudonymously copyrighted intellectual property with greater ease (although, again, this isn't necessary, as per the link to the US Copyright Office above). By using a dummy company copyright, I've certainly been able to get an entire website shut down within the space of under 4 hours in the past after serving the hosting provider with a written notice of copyright infringement; whether this would have been so easy purely under a non-formalized pseudonymous copyright, I'm not sure.

    About the most useful brief write-up that I know of online (although bear in mind that it is merely an overview, and that copyright law can be a minefield), with links off to sections on other potentially pertinent issues, is at:
    http://www.ivanhoffman.com/pennames.html
     
  3. mephistopheles

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    Thanks a ton alex8, told me exactly what i wanted to know.

    Much gratitude i your direction sir.
     
  4. dolf250

    dolf250 New Member

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    Yeah... what he said.
     
  5. madame_zora

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    Thanks for the question too, Meph. I should have known our resident know-it-all would know that. :biggrin1: I've been wondering myself, and had far less luck finding answers.
     
  6. DC_DEEP

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    Yes, alex8, thanks. Your advice is mostly right on target. It is indeed a very complicated issue, with many common misconceptions about copyright and intellectual property.

    A good friend of mine is employed with an Office of the Inspector General for a federal agency. He is an investigator, and his job - specifically - is to investigate allegations of fraud, abuse, and plaigerism. While he has an open investigation, of course, he can't talk about the case, but he does have some stories to tell. The internet has, of course, blurred a lot of the lines that were fairly clear before.

    At any rate, meph, it would be well worth your while to read up on copyright law and intellectual property.

    Generally, if you publish your own work, you own the copyright. If you go through a publisher, your contract will dictate who owns the copyright, but most publishers will require that they assume ownership, if they agree to publish your work.
     
  7. D_alex8

    D_alex8 Member

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    Eek, how icky! I've never once been asked by any publisher on this side of the pond to hand over my copyright... Indeed, it's always been stated specifically with relation to everything I've published that "copyright resides with the author". Evidently, local practice varies from place to place and publisher to publisher.
     
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