I am developing a web site for ebooks and ebook authors and have a question about my legal liability in regard to allowing images to be associated with pen names or pseudonyms.
The publishing industry has a long history of permitting pseudonyms for a variety of purposes. Technically (as I understand it), using the name "Matt Smith" when your full legal name is "Matthew Clay Smith" is using a pseudonym, though it is one that isn't intended to obfuscate the legal identity of the author.
On the other hand, writing romance novels as "Matt Smith" may not be as marketable as writing them under the pseudonym "Alicia Caring."
Given the following examples (which in no way exhaust the possibilities), am I as the website creator or the company I form to encompass it legally liable for misrepresentation and can that liability be disclaimed with appropriate Terms & Conditions boiler plate?
- Natural derivative of my legal name with photo of myself.
- Intentionally obfuscating pseudonym with photo of myself.
- Intentionally obfuscating pseudonym with stock photo of someone else.
Please note that there are no (or it's highly unlikely) ad hominem commercial claims. Merely the adoption of an alias. And as such I might be making much ado about nothing.
In the publishing industry, the purpose of an obfuscating pseudonym is to make it difficult or impossible to track down the real person (the publisher acting as the real person's agent). Pen names are rarely registered in the sense of a trademark.
Usually, the use of a pseudonym is to either make it easier for the author to write to his/her market (most female writers of the 1800s wrote used men's names) or to divest themselves of ownership (Louis L'Amour famously denied to his dying day being the Tex Burns who wrote the Hopalong Cassidy novels).
I am wondering if I can be hurt by someone building up a false personality around their real picture, or building up a false personality around someone else's picture, when it comes to me presenting books to the world.