Copyright (c) and Pseudonyms: What Every Author Should Know

25 Apr
The cover I didn't choose

The cover I didn’t choose

There can be a number of reasons why an author would want to write under another name. For example, horror master Stephen King also wrote under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman, so he could publish more often without saturating the Stephen King brand. More recently, Harry Potter author Joanne Rowling wrote for an adult audience as Robert Galbraith, to escape the Harry Potter hype.

These are examples from fiction. I am a non-fiction writer (well, for the moment, at least) who is writing as “Michael M. McConaughey.” Who I really am must remain an eternal mystery, just like the Bruce Wayne – Batman thing. Besides wanting privacy due to the rather controversial nature of my true story, there is actually a legal requirement that I not be publicly identified in association with my case. Ontario’s Child and Family Services Act s. 45.(8), under “Hearings and Orders,” is quite explicit:

Prohibition: identifying child
(8)  No person shall publish or make public information that has the effect of identifying a child who is a witness at or a participant in a hearing or the subject of a proceeding, or the child’s parent or foster parent or a member of the child’s family. R.S.O. 1990, c. C.11, s. 45 (8).

I have a little bit of a problem, don’t I? My account manager at has informed me that we are now at the stage where she must submit the application for copyright to the U.S. Copyright Office on my behalf. I can’t very well have “Copyright (c) 2014 [INSERT MyRealName]” printed in the book, can I? As it turns out, I can’t use “Copyright (c) 2014 MYPRIVATECORPORATION INC,” either. All someone would have to do is Google the corporation name, and my real name would come up as a director (if I had one), as this is a matter of public record.

However, I can register the copyright of my book under my pseudonym. Here’s what the guidance says:

An author of a copyrighted work can use a pseudonym or pen name. A work is pseudonymous if the author is identified on copies or phonorecords of the work by a fictitious name. Nicknames and other diminutive forms of legal names are not considered fictitious. Copyright does not protect pseudonyms or other names.

If you write under a pseudonym but want to be identified by your legal name in the Copyright Office’s records, give your legal name and your pseudonym on your application for copyright registration. Check “pseudonymous” on the application if the author is identified on copies of the work only under a fictitious name and if the work is not made for hire. Give the pseudonym where indicated.

If you write under a pseudonym and do not want to have your identity revealed in the Copyright Office’s records, give your pseudonym and identify it as such on your application. You can leave blank the space for the name of the author. If an author’s name is given, it will become part of the Office’s online public records, which are accessible by Internet. The information cannot later be removed from the public records. You must identify your citizenship or domicile.

In no case should you omit the name of the copyright claimant. You can use a pseudonym for the claimant name. But be aware that if a copyright is held under a fictitious name, business dealings involving the copyrighted property may raise questions about its ownership. Consult an attorney for legal advice on this matter.

Works distributed under a pseudonym enjoy a term of copyright protection that is the earlier of 95 years from publication of the work or 120 years from its creation. However, if the author’s identity is revealed in the registration records of the Copyright Office, including in any other registrations made before that term has expired, the term then becomes the author’s life plus 70 years.

So, in my case, here’s what I have to do:

1 – Get my Case Manager to put my pseudonym of Matthew M. McConaughey on the copyright application, and identify it as such.
2 – Leave the space for the real name blank. DO NOT PUT MY REAL NAME ON THE APPLICATION!!!
3 – Recognize the difference in the duration of copyright by doing this (not a big deal, for me).
4 – Make certain that I can prove that it’s my work, in case some clown tries to claim that he or she wrote the book and is “Michael M. McConaughey.”
5 – Consult an attorney.

In my case, 1 and 2 will be taken care of by on my behalf, as this is part of the package that was paid for. 3 is really not an issue for me, at the tender age of 48. For 4, I have my correspondence with as evidence that I wrote my book. I could also show the manuscript to a lawyer before it is published, as such a lawyer would make for a credible witness. I can also mail myself a copy of the manuscript before it is published, but not open it (i.e., leave it sealed) when it arrives. This allows me to prove that I wrote the manuscript before I published it, as the mail would have a date stamp (hopefully).

For 5 (don’t skip this!), I would look for an honourable and competent attorney with expertise in defamation and copyright law, such as Toronto’s Mr. Gil Zvulony.

Mr. Gil Zvulony, Toronto Attorney (

Mr. Gil Zvulony, Toronto Attorney (


If you’ve done your homework, all it might take is a 15 to 30 minute telephone call with such an attorney to confirm that this applies in your legal jurisdiction (mine is the Holy Feminist Matriarchy of Canada). Being a little older and wiser, my book The Mirror, Book One – Welcome to the Evil Sisterhood will be Copyright (c) 2014 Michael M. McConaughey.

Thus, I shall remain the most mysterious Michael M. McConaughey, Scourge of the Matriarchy.

[CAVEAT: This post is not to be construed as legal advice. It is for educational purposes only, to prepare you for discussion with a licensed attorney.]

40 Responses to “Copyright (c) and Pseudonyms: What Every Author Should Know”

  1. Susan Irene Fox April 25, 2014 at 6:45 pm #

    I’m waiting on pins and needles for this to come out! :-O

    • navigator1965 April 25, 2014 at 6:47 pm #

      Oh, you have me laughing, Susan! Thanks for your love and support and enthusiasm. ❤

  2. LindaGHill April 25, 2014 at 7:02 pm #

    Interesting. I have a children’s story written which I’m thinking to publish if I can find a suitable illustrator. The nature of my adult work, however, causes me to consider writing the children’s story under a pseudonym, so my readers don’t get mixed up.
    Thanks for this information, Nav. 🙂

    • navigator1965 April 25, 2014 at 7:56 pm #

      Interesting pseudonym scenario, Linda. Makes sense. I’m glad you found the post informative.

      • LindaGHill April 25, 2014 at 10:06 pm #

        Totally backwards from what you’re facing. 😛

  3. insanitybytes22 April 25, 2014 at 7:12 pm #

    “Thus, I shall remain the most mysterious Michael M. McConaughey, Scourge of the Matriarchy.”

    Ha! I love that. Maybe you’ll get to do a comic book one of these days. I’d read it! Nicely done with the research, I’m impressed.

    • navigator1965 April 25, 2014 at 8:03 pm #

      Hi, ib. I’m glad you caught that bit. A little drama with just the slightest by of tongue-in-cheek humour. Attila the Hun was “The Scourge of God,” apparently. I permitted myself to be inspired. Ah, the value of history.

      I can’t take credit for the research, this time. Mr. Z. is both a fine gent and a competent lawyer. I did want to pass along this new knowledge, and thought the post was a good way to do this.

    • navigator1965 April 25, 2014 at 8:07 pm #

      Maybe Marvel can do a Wolverine-navigator special feature comic. I spill my Lagavulin and melt his adamantium claws.

      Then I cry. Over the spilled Lagavulin, not his claws.

  4. vicbriggs April 25, 2014 at 8:17 pm #

    There is a lot to be said for using pen-names whether there is a legal requirement or not. I’m certain that many authors intending to do so will find your post a good place to begin: there is a lot of information to get to grips with. Thank you for sharing, Navigator.

    • navigator1965 April 25, 2014 at 8:59 pm #

      Thanks, Vic. I agree with you on advantages of pen-names as an author. There is much to commend them.

      Glad to contribute to our WordPress community. Lest memory fails me, you’ve done your bit in this regard rather admirably. Always a pleasure to follow an excellent example such as yours.

      • vicbriggs April 25, 2014 at 9:03 pm #

        You are too kind, Navigator. My attempts have been often surpassed by many more deserving of praise. Wishing you a great weekend ahead.
        Best wishes,

        • navigator1965 April 25, 2014 at 9:08 pm #

          You, too, Vic—have a great weekend. Cheers.

  5. Inion N. Mathair April 25, 2014 at 8:37 pm #

    Love your pen name!! And your right, many great authors used pseudonyms for reasons other than just being bored and wanting a different name!! As for YOUR reasoning, it is probably the most sound I’ve heard! Nothing can encourage a writer to protect their identity more, than a lawsuit! 😉 By the way, absolutely love the Batman reference as Inion is a huge comic book fan & thought, it & you are totally cool!!! I really do hope this works out for you our friend! And please, PLEASE, make sure that you are protected from any as you said, Clowns who might take liberties with your work! I can see your in good hands with a good literary lawyer which is the best place to start. We ourselves use one, Mr. David Carter & have had him on retainer since starting this journey!! Best of luck & here’s to your brilliant book we’ll be able to read very soon!! ❤ 😉 BTW~Nav….love the title: "Michael M. McConaughey, Scourge of the Matriarchy." Makes you sound like a character from the Game of Thrones!!! 😉

    • navigator1965 April 25, 2014 at 9:07 pm #

      Ladies! Always a pleasure to have you here. Yes, I have had to make good use of Mr. Zvulony’s expertise, and I am grateful for his counsel. The book has benefitted from this, and hopefully it will meet expectations.

      As for the “Scourge” line, it was inspired by a book I’d read some time ago entitled “Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun.” I believe Mr. Hun was known as “The Scourge of God,” back in the day.

      It was either “Scourge” or go Tolkien and use “Bane.” Either one’s a winner. ❤

  6. alysia86 April 26, 2014 at 6:00 am #

    nice written, I’m currently in process of writing my debut novel. yet I had the idea of using pen name but for some I’m still wondering if I should stay as I am. But I think its each to its own

    • navigator1965 April 26, 2014 at 8:56 am #

      Alysia, Thanks for your kind comment. I haven’t had the chance to do much research on why an author might prefer to use a pen name or when it might be advantageous to do so. My hand was forced in this, but it is probably for the best, even without the legal requirement.

      You’re quite right in stating that it’s very much an individual author’s decision as to whether or not to use a pen name. The pen name becomes a brand if the author is successful, and it does isolate the author from her or his work, perhaps allowing for a firewall between professional and personal lives.

      Stay in touch – it will be interesting to learn what you decide in terms of using a pen name or not.


  7. KG April 26, 2014 at 7:09 am #

    🙂 The process itself is getting more and more interesting and information.

    • KG April 26, 2014 at 7:10 am #

      sorry typo: ‘informative’

    • navigator1965 April 26, 2014 at 9:10 am #

      Hi, KG. Yes, there is so much to learn, and it is interesting. What have I learned?:

      – How to write a book proposal, which includes planning the book
      – How to write a manuscript
      – How to build relationships via blogging
      – How to write blog posts that people enjoy reading, find interesting, or find useful
      – How to use a premium service self-publishing company
      – The need to engage competent proof readers early
      – Em-dashes v. en-dashes, restrictive clauses (that) v. non-restrictive clauses (, which), epigraphs (quotes at the start of chapters), etc.
      – How to use Adobe Reader to mark up galley proofs for revision / correction
      – How to communicate design concepts to the cover design artist
      – How to work with those wonderful test readers };-)>
      – The economics of e-book sales and pricing
      – How to work in Scrivener (work in progress)
      – Copyright and pseudonyms

      I still have to learn more about book launches, marketing, etc. Oh, find a new job, get out of the military, take the Canada Revenue Agency to court for refusing to give my my lawful tax refund (part of Book Two – the story continues!), and continue researching / writing Book Two.

      Life, it would appear, is a journey of discovery.

      • KG April 26, 2014 at 9:18 am #

        Whoa 🙂 That is quite some list Nav.
        And as a side effect of sharing the knowledge to people , you have taught me a lot actually. And I would be ever grateful for that.

        • navigator1965 April 26, 2014 at 9:25 am #

          I’ve always loved thinking and learning. I’ve also had the opportunity to do some instructional work in the military (i.e., teaching), and I loved doing this, too. I suppose that sharing knowledge is both a duty I love and a privilege that I enjoy.

          So glad that you’ve benefitted from what I’ve written, KG. That in and of itself is more reward than I could ever ask for.

        • KG April 26, 2014 at 9:27 am #

          You know I always thought (after reading the manuscript) that you would be a very very good teacher, if you ever chose that profession. But then I guess it is your inherent nature to excel in whatever line you choose 🙂

        • navigator1965 April 26, 2014 at 9:49 am #

          Flattery will get you everywhere, Madam KG! Thank you.

          I fear I have some rather obvious cognitive asymmetries. I’m good with reasoning, communicating complex thoughts / concepts / topics in easy-to-understand language and intuitive analogies, and seeing the odd abstract pattern or relationship that might typically elude another.

          Hands-on things like changing the oil in the lawnmower is definitely where I do NOT excel. In the kitchen? I am most certainly “developmentally delayed” in a major way when it comes to culinary skills (I have not evolved past meat-over-open-flame: Palaeolithic Analogue Navigator Man). Dress myself fashionably or even in colour-coordinated fashion?

          Seeing one’s relative strengths and weaknesses, and accepting them for what they are (no more, no less), is part of life’s journey of self discovery. I’m far from perfect, but I’ve come to accept myself and be at peace with that person.

          Having said all of this, I think I’ll be in teacher mode big time for Book Two, even more than story teller mode. I’m quite excited about it: there are some rather profound concepts that will be coming out.

        • KG April 26, 2014 at 10:00 am #

          🙂 I was telling you the truth and nothing but the truth , your honor.
          My expectations with your 2nd book is the same as you have stated.
          Having said that I can see that you are gonna be overloaded with all events. Good luck for that Nav.

        • navigator1965 April 26, 2014 at 10:10 am #

          Thanks, KG. I suspect that life will somehow find a way to permit me to get Book Two written. Perhaps things happen for a reason, sometimes, and one must remain attuned to the hidden messages of life.

        • KG April 26, 2014 at 10:17 am #

          Very True Nav.

  8. Carrie-Anne Foster (thatdizzychick) April 27, 2014 at 11:26 am #

    This was an informative post! While I see the need for you to use a pseudonym, I find it tragic that you *have* to use one.

    Your story is one that is so important, and the fact that you have researched so much information, it is a shame that your true name not be associated with your work.

    I’m curious…do you think writing under a pseudonym will have less impact on what you hope to be the outcome of publishing your story?

    • navigator1965 April 27, 2014 at 2:21 pm #

      Hi Carrie-Anne. Appreciate the kind sentiments.

      I am actually kind of glad that I am forced to do this anonymously. Besides making it harder for the feminist ninjas to find me, I think I would rather that I remain unknown to the world, especially if the books have any significant degree of commercial success or social influence.

      One place where I foresee Book Two going in terms of the logical implications of the unified construct of gender narcissism is that genuine spirituality, in whatever form or religious basis, is the antithesis of the narcissistic ego. It’s so easy to walk down the garden path of inappropriately feeding one’s ego in this day and age.

      One doesn’t need to walk away from fame and notoriety if one has refrained from walking towards them in the first place.

      If the construct proves to be as significant as I suspect (most significant), and I can communicate this as effectively as I seem to have done with Book One, then I believe it’s far and away better for me to remain just another unremarkable guy, as far as the world can see. Not even as well known as Bruce Wayne or the Scarlet Pimpernel’s alternate persona.

      “They seek him here
      They seek him there
      Those femi’s seek him everywhere…”

      There is the book marketing to consider. To achieve the desired positive social impact and change, the book has to achieve at least come degree of commercial success, although I have no idea what that translates to in terms of sales numbers. Normally, I’d have to do the book signings and open interviews and all that, assuming Book One is successful. It might be, however, that being forced to remain anonymous could act as a mystery element to the overall story behind the book, which will counteract my not being able to openly participate in traditional marketing activities.

      Time will tell. Thanks for the insightful questions. You’re keeping me sharp. };-)>

  9. Winifred M. Reilly April 28, 2014 at 4:07 am #

    Now I think I might start calling you Bruce.

    I’ve been thinking about our conversation about marketing and in light of this pseudonym thing it’s a real challenge. (Anyone who knows me knows that I love challenges and there’s a lot to love in this one.) I’ll have to mull this over.

    Hard to imagine doing a reading and book signing wearing a disguise. Might be fun.

    • navigator1965 April 28, 2014 at 7:50 am #

      I’ll have to refrain from too much California Cabernet Sauvignon, lest I show up to a book signing wearing my long johns, a bath towel for a cape, and a ski mask. BruceNav. It could get as bad as Barnes & Noble Klingon opera karaoke.

      Yes, the anonymity aspect does present an interesting marketing challenge. I continue to wonder if that element of author mystery combined with the controversial nature of the story won’t combine to create a viral aspect to the book.

      Maybe I should plan for opera singing on Fantasy Island.

  10. Sherri April 28, 2014 at 2:12 pm #

    What about your cloak Nav? Won’t that do? And your mask? Glad you didn’t use this cover… 😉

    • navigator1965 April 28, 2014 at 2:17 pm #

      Well, it isn’t a Harry Potter invisibility cloak. And with the whole burkha issue, masks haven’t been as popular around these parts, so…

      Actually, the rejected cover isn’t too bad, all things considered. Maybe I should make a cape in the design of the cover I adopted. MirrorNav!


      • Sherri April 29, 2014 at 11:00 am #

        Ahh..quite 😉

        No, it really isn’t too bad in the grand scheme of things…and well, MirrorNav does have a certain ring to it…hmmm…. 😉


  1. Book Release: The Mirror, Book One – Welcome to the Evil Sisterhood | The Mirror - May 13, 2014

    […] the cover design is copyright, everyone is free to use it to blog about the book, with my blessing. There is a legal requirement that I not be publicly identified in association with this true story, … I haven’t seen my daughter since August 2008, because of […]

  2. I AM BEING OPENLY DEFAMED BY A BLOGGER | The Mirror - May 22, 2014

    […] – There is no law or court order that forbids me from writing about my case. I merely have to ensure that the children cannot be publicly identified in the process. For details, see this post. […]

  3. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and Holdings Powers That Be Accountable | The Mirror - June 18, 2014

    […] due Ontario’s Child and Family Services Act, I cannot be publicly identified in association with my true story. Thus, I write and blog under the pseudonym of Michael M. […]

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