I am about to self-publish my first novel using a pen name. I will be registering the copyright this week.

My question is, on the first page of the novel where you put all the publishing/copyright info, should I say that the novel is copyright of my pen name, in order to protect my true identity?

Example, let's say my real name is Jane Smith and my pen name is Denise Smithers. I will register the copyright with the copyright office using my real name (but will also write what my pen name is), but I don't want to put that on the book as I want that kept private.

If I write (c) Denise Smithers, will that imply that the copyright belongs to the actual person behind the pen name?

I know that the copyright belongs to me anyway, but I still want to add that copyright line to my novel.

Any advice would be appreciated!

  • Instead of " (c) Denise Smithers" (or any other name), why not "Copyright reserved" or something akin to that?
    – Pablo H
    Aug 2 '19 at 13:28

The form for filing copyright has fields for both "Author" (the person whose name is on the work) and "Copyright Claimant" (the person who is claiming the copyright). Under Author, there is an option to check "Pseudonymous" to indicate that the Author is a pen name. If the Copyright Claimant and the Author are different names, there is space on the form to indicate why.

If for some reason, you do not want to have your actual name associated with the pseudonym, you are allowed to give the pseudonym as the name of the Copyright Claimant, though you must still identify it as a pseudonym.

There are risks to assigning the copyright to the pseudonym as the Claimant. If the copyright is challenged, it may be difficult for you to prove ownership in court if the Copyright Claimant is a pseudonym. Also, the copyright term for pseudonymous works where the author's true identity is not revealed is different -- it's a fixed term, whereas if the true identity behind the pseudonym is listed in the records, the term is the usual author's life + 70 years.

For more information see this PDF document from the copyright office.

  • Thank you very much Greg. I intend to file with the copyright office using my real name and putting in my pseudonym as well. I guess that will protect me better. I wonder if I in my actual book, I should just write something like "Copyright has been file with the US Copyright Office"? Would that be something that you have seen before? Thank you.
    – MoniqueH
    Jun 13 '16 at 16:49

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