My pen name guide (pseudonym): I was concerned about the legalities of using a pen name for ebooks, websites (blogs), and even webinars or teleseminars. So I hired a lawyer to do a write up about the legal in and outs of using a pen name for writing or online marketing.
What he wrote is in ‘legaleze’ so hopefully you can wrap your head around it.
This pen name post is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a legal document or legal advice.
- Authoring, creating and distributing any type of intellectual property, books, articles, blogs, posts or responses to blogs under a pen name is legal with some limited restrictions. Typically, an author, creator or distributor of a book, article, blog, response who uses a pen name is called a ghost writer rather than nome de plume (pen name). An example of this is when a person who is a celebrity or a person suddenly thrust into the public eye, “writes” a book, he pays a professional writer a flat fee or per word fee.
- A ghost writer does not retain any intellectual property rights to the work she has authored, unless specifically negotiated with the other contracting party. The contracting party who hires the professional writer retains all the intellectual property rights to the book, book rights and ancillary rights. There is no legal restriction against the contracting party claiming she is the author of the book although the ghost writer wrote the book.
- The most important factor in determining whether the owner of a site may post and post responses to his or her own website under a different name or different names, geographic locations, age, gender and the like is whether the pen name writer is making a definitive, actual claim regarding a product or service of the web site.
- As far as an individual using a pen name to write articles on their own web site or responses to posts or posts and all the material makes no claim regarding any specific product or service there is no issue. If a pen name owner of a site whose product is featured uses a pen name to post specific laudatory remarks about the product or service using several different names or hires several different people using pen names to write in with laudatory claims about a product or service that is considered fraud.
- If however the website is concerning entertainment or sports, having nothing to do with saying laudatory things about a product or service that is not fraudulent behavior. It is not uncommon for web sites to hire people to write in with responses or posts to give the impression that there is a lot of traffic. This is not fraudulent as long as it is reasonable and not done profusely with hundreds or thousands of fake posters. The only reason it would be fraudulent is if thousands of fake posts would be deceiving the internet provider and its advertisers who set rates of advertising according to traffic.
- Sometimes a computer software program by advertisers or internet providers, who also can monitor IP addresses for repetitive, all day long responses from one person using several names causes the web site to have legal problems with the internet provider and its advertisers. However, certain other claims by websites regarding subscriptions and traffic are not fraudulent even if it is misleading in a non-fraudulent manner. For example, Facebook claims 900 million users/subscribers. In reality there are 300 to 600 million because most people have multiple accounts or some people have accounts opened using their name, like a fan site. This is not considered fraudulent because it is widely known.
- Additional content on a web site which directs traffic to a link which appears not to be associated with the web site, but is in fact operated by the web site is not fraudulent. Multiple blog/Facebook/twitter links, which appear to be independent of the web site but are not, are not fraudulent unless it has something do with excessive laudatory testimonials.
- You may use a pen name for an e-book or hard copy book. The restriction is that you must not state false qualifications of experience, education or false laudatory examples/and or testimonials. Additionally, all of the e-books/hard copy books can’t be under a pen name. It would be misleading and fraudulent. It’s considered to be an unreasonable business practice used to induce customers to purchase a product or service. That would be fraudulent and misleading. It constitutes a violation of consumer law, being a false and deceptive consumer practice.
- You may do webinars and teleseminars as long as you do not use false qualifications of education and/or experience. Again, all the webinars and teleseminars may not be you, using a pen name. Additionally, for all of the above material, you may not give false geographic information or occupation as to the status of the pen name writer. That again, would be considered fraudulent and a violation of consumer law. Any violations of these consumer laws using an instrument like the internet with a web site are in general prosecuted by federal authorities as wire fraud. Repetitive, laudatory testimonials by pen name, with false listing of education, geographic location and experience is considered illegal.
- Furthermore, if all of the entries on the website, testimonials, webinars, tele-seminars and the like are under a pen name, with or without false education/experience, status, that would be considered fraud, because it is unreasonable. The next question, which has not yet been determined by any legal authority, is whether a website’s silence as to where they originate is false inducement for the consumer to use the website’s service. The website may not use a false indication of the location of their business on the web site. Whether or not the use of an IP address which is not the originating IP address has not been determined as to its legality. Again, it could be argued it is either a material omission in which the web site had a duty to disclose or is fraudulent as an inducement to have the consumer buy a product or service. Under no circumstances shall a web site affirmatively give a false physical geographic location.
- No false or misleading material may be written nor implied. This includes the geographic location of the web site, pen name writer, testimonial-pen name writer, pen name’s education and/or experience. If not, all of that is considered a fraudulent inducement to buy the web site’s product or service. No definitive false statements may be written. Material which promises certain goods or services must be delivered. You can do a fictious story as long as the resulting story end is true. No false laudatory blogs on your website written by pen name. You using a pen name, you may write what you want on the website as long as it’s accurate, true and not misleading.
- Despite of all these legal requirements, it is the USA’s Federal Trade Commission who investigates and prosecutes, with The USA Attorney General’s USA Department of Justice, any of these violations. Being where you are, The FTC would have to refer the case to your federal authorities for investigation and prosecution and/or possible extradition to The USA. Ok that’s the exhaustive analysis of the use of a pen name for web site business. I believe that concludes the assignment.
Additional Pen Name Information For Webinars or Teleseminars:
- You can personally do any webinar or tele seminar. You can not do any of these using a pen name with a false educational background and false statement of where it originates if you are using a pen name with one of those virtual person Avatars doing the
- You cannot do webinar and tele-seminar’s using a pen name and/or virtual person(Avatar)’s and false educational background or location. I have seen your website and related links to it. There are substantial legal(issues as well as civil consumer affairs issues with the web site and links. If you would like me to review and edit the site and related links to suggest the withdraw of certain material to be in compliance with The USA Federal Trade Commission rules regarding internet commerce please let me know. My flat fee is $50.