Pseudonyms: What you need to know

Pseudonyms: What you need to know

The use of pseudonyms or pen names is very common in the book industry. Authors can use as many different names as they want during their lifetimes.

Are you thinking about publishing under a nom de plume? Here are some essential facts before you go ahead with it.

Why publish under a pseudonym?

You may want to remain anonymous for a variety of reasons. Some common ones are to avoid the spotlight so you can express yourself more freely and protect your reputation and privacy. In practical terms, a writer may want to publish novels in a completely different genre or a researcher might have a hidden talent for horror stories.

The right to remain anonymous is one of the moral rights, which are inalienable and represent a permanent link between an author and their works. Disclosing an author’s identity without their permission constitutes copyright infringement and violates the author’s right to remain anonymous.

Rights are the same

Whether or not you publish under a pen name, you retain your rights as an author, i.e. the exclusive right to present, reproduce, adapt and modify your works. Anyone who wants to use your content in those ways under a pseudonym must first obtain your consent.

Can you be found if you use a pseudonym?

After you publish under a pseudonym, it may be difficult to track you down to request permission to use your content. If applicable, your publishing house can always serve as intermediary between you and the person making the request.

Another option is for you to register your books and articles with Copibec. In your “author” account, you can list your pseudonyms so our team can act as your go-between.

Every year, our team processes thousands of requests and user log entries for books, newspapers and magazines. Many of those requests are about works published under a pen name.

How long does copyright last?

If the identity of the work’s creator is known, the copyright ends in the 50th year following their death. After that date, the content goes into the public domain.

The rules are different for content published under a pseudonym. In that case, the copyright ends on either of two dates:

- 50th year following the date the work was published
- 75th year following the date the work was created

How is the date determined? Whichever comes first.

If the author’s identity was eventually revealed, the copyright would end in the 50th year following the death of the author or the last known surviving contributor.

Anonymous works

There’s an important distinction to be made between a work published under a pseudonym and an anonymous work. In the case of an anonymous work, the name of the author is unknown. The content has not been signed. However, the copyright for an anonymous work lasts as long as it does for a work published under a pseudonym.

You can find more information about your rights as they relate to pen names in our article on moral rights.