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Imagine that somebody plans to create a work of an art (say, a comic or computer game), that depicts various religious forces from an attitude that can be perceived as extremely critical by their representatives.

While it's generally safe to assume that followers of most major religions (say, Christians, Buddhists, Hinduists and so on) can take criticism without violence, potential author might be worried about reaction from radical Muslim community. Given somewhat recent example of Charlie Hebdo slaughter, it's not uncommon for this community to react inadequately to even mild criticism.

While choosing not to create such a work might sound like a solution, essentially it's just indirectly accepting the fear of death threats, "thinking of consequences" and so on — the ill constructs this work of art is meant to fight with.

So, the question is — is there any legal way (so, no fake IDs) to ensure personal safety of such an author, if author wants to create this product, and sell it via online distribution platforms? Would it possible to create a company that does not disclose the identity of who had created it and owns it, to act as an alias for a person? If yes, can it be still considered safe, or names can be still obtained via requests?

What kind of legal counselor should potential author contact to discuss this matter?

Exact jurisdiction does not matter as long as they allow foreigners to create companies with desired properties.

  • I can't see any requirement anywhere that the name of the author of a book should be made public knowledge. – gnasher729 Nov 21 '16 at 9:41
  • @gnasher729, but with computer games, if you'd like to make revenue from it, wouldn't it be public? Just because you have to pay taxes and so on? – toriningen Nov 21 '16 at 9:44
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An example of what you are looking for can be found in the actor Emma Watson, who appears in the Panama Papers. You can incorporate a company in a jurisdiction that does not disclose information about the owners of companies. This gives you a degree of privacy. Everybody just sees the company's name, not your name.

What you are describing is the ability to run a business and own assets without members of the public being able to identify you. This is similar to, but at least theoretically distinct from, being able to run a business and own assets without the authorities being able to identify you.

The latter (secrecy from the government) facilitates tax evasion, money laundering, etc. If you trust the relevant government authorities, then you don't need secrecy from the government, you just need secrecy from the general public. (It depends who and where you think the hypothetical angry Muslims are.)

Over time, hiding your identify from government authorities is becoming more difficult, due to various initiatives designed to crack down on tax evasion. However, hiding from the general public is still relatively straightforward. Very few jurisdictions have gone so far as to institute a public register of the beneficial ownership of companies. In the absence of such a public register, all you need to do is hire a lawyer or accountant to be your nominee and put their name on the business entity. (Note, the hypothetical angry Muslims may in theory waterboard your lawyer to get your name and home address; choose your lawyer carefully.)

  • Actually, in most civil law countries, unlike most common law countries, beneficial ownership of a closely held company most be disclosed in a notarial act also called a "public act" which is less public than a U.S. clerk and recorder's real estate record or Secretary of State record, but is more public than the private records of a business. – ohwilleke Nov 23 '16 at 3:07
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It is commonplace for authors to publish under a pseudonym, so long as the pseudonym is not used to advance a fraudulent purpose. Many famous authors past and present (e.g. J.K.Rowling, Madonna) have done so, and probably one in six or seven names on record labels and in TV and movies credits are stage names.

The unions for the TV, live theater and movie industries even have a set of conventions about pseudonyms which can be used in certain circumstances (for example, when a director wanted to cancel the production because it didn't meet his artistic standards, but was forced under contract to go forward anyway).

All that is necessary is that the parties to the relevant contracts, tax officials, etc. can identify you. A publisher, record label, movie studio or TV producer would probably have to disclose the author's true name, however, if faced with a subpoena, although personal safety would often be a valid reason to quash such a subpoena or to require that the information be disclosed under seal or pursuant to a protective order.

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