Copyrights, Privacy, and the Blockchain

33 Pages Posted: 30 Jul 2016

See all articles by Tom W. Bell

Tom W. Bell

Chapman University, The Dale E. Fowler School of Law

Date Written: 2016


The law of the United States forces authors to choose between copyrights and privacy rights. Federal lawmakers have noticed and tried to remedy that problem. The Copyright Act makes express provisions for anonymous and pseudonymous works. The Copyright Office has tried to remedy that tension, too; copyright registration forms do not outwardly require authors to reveal their real world identities. Nonetheless, authors still face a choice between protecting their privacy and enjoying one of copyright’s most powerful incentives: the prospect of transferring to another the exclusive right to use a copyrighted work. That power proves useful, to say the least, when it comes to making money off of copyrights. Run-of-the-mill authors can invoke it by licensing or assigning their unregistered copyrights or by registering their works themselves. But what about anonymous or pseudonymous authors? Despite a good faith effort to respect authorial privacy, current copyright registration practices fall short of ideal. Far from a trifling matter, this procedural hurdle threatens to prevent copyright law from satisfying its constitutional mandate. This paper maps the problematic conflict between copyright and privacy and points towards some possible solutions.

Keywords: privacy, copyright, block chain, encryption, anonymity, and pseudonymity

Suggested Citation

Bell, Tom W., Copyrights, Privacy, and the Blockchain (2016). Ohio North University Law Review, Vol. 42, 2016, Chapman University, Fowler Law Research Paper No. 16-09, Available at SSRN:

Tom W. Bell (Contact Author)

Chapman University, The Dale E. Fowler School of Law ( email )

One University Drive
Orange, CA 92866-1099
United States
714-628-2503 (Phone)
714-628-2576 (Fax)


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