I am releasing a program under the GNU GPL v3.0. I need to include a copyright notice.

Is it ok to use my username in the copyright notice as I don't want to use my real name?

  • 3
    Answered on Law.SE: How to express copyright when you use a pen name
    – apsillers
    Jul 20, 2018 at 19:42
  • @apsillers I don't want to spend the time to register the copyright. Can I still use my username?
    – airsquared
    Jul 20, 2018 at 19:52
  • 4
  • 1
    @abc Re "I don't want to spend the time to register the copyright", click on eco.copyright.gov and then click the "register as a new user" link. It's pretty easy. And if you've already "spent the time" to develop the software, then spend just a few more minutes to register it. In principle, you already automatically own the copyright to anything you write the moment it's on paper. However, in practice, if the matter ever comes under dispute, the courts look very favorably on you for demonstrating your intent by registering the copyright before infringement occurs. Jul 23, 2018 at 12:37
  • @abc, under current law (almost everywhere in the world, see the Berne convention), just by authoring the code the copyright is automatically yours. It makes any future legal proceedings simpler if you register it formally, but it is not required.
    – vonbrand
    Feb 14, 2020 at 21:52

1 Answer 1


The governing document for copyright is the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. Its Wikipedia article notes that

The United States initially refused to become a party to the Convention, since that would have required [...] elimination of [the] mandatory copyright notice

Which suggests that the copyright statement doesn't even need to be there for protection, much less that it must state a full name. The convention itself says in Article 7(3) that

In the case of anonymous or pseudonymous works, the term of protection granted by this Convention shall expire fifty years after the work has been lawfully made available to the public. However, when the pseudonym adopted by the author leaves no doubt as to his identity, the term of protection shall be that provided in paragraph (1).

so in convention signatory countries, which is nearly all of them, it is perfectly lawful to publish under a pseudonym, and you don't (entirely) forfeit your copyright protection by so doing. This seems consistent with the law.SE answer that apsillers kindly links to, supra.

If I wanted to publish under a pseudonym and retain maximum control, I'd create a custom GPG key for that pseudonym and use it to sign the copyright notice. If at some later time a dispute about authorship arises, your demonstrable control of the signing key should enable you to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that you are the author.

  • re "beyond any reasonable doubt"; What if you got hacked? or if you're a hacker?
    – Pacerier
    Nov 12, 2023 at 2:43
  • @Pacerier see "demonstrable control". If you can make a convincing argument that the signature is not yours, the court will likely entertain it: courts have been hearing arguments about the validity of signatures for centuries, and in most modern jurisdictions, e-signatures haven't changed that.
    – MadHatter
    Nov 12, 2023 at 9:51

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