Thursday, 12 July 2012
What's my name?
I would be interested in credible references from anyone on this, either way.
Basically, that we have no formal legal notion that we all have a single official name that we must always use, or that we have a single legal name.
Now I know about using a deed poll, which is a statement to the world renouncing a previous name and stating you will only use a new name. Even so, this is not something that is official or registered or anything - it is a statement you make yourself in writing (on paper with straight edges). To convince people (banks, etc) that it is a valid thing, you usually want a printed and even sealed one, but in principle you could just hand write it in crayon and it means the same thing.
I think a lot of people in the UK think that people do have an official name and even that a deed poll is some sort of official document.
The one thing that does matter, as I understand it, is that you don't use different names for fraudulent reasons. But you can be any name you like, and I think you can even be different names in different contexts.
I know loads of people that "go by" their middle name, and lots of people that use a name that is an abbreviation of their original name, e.g. Jim.
Why has this come up?
Well, I have used some aliases. This has not really come about by some desire to be covert or difficult, it just sort of happened. I have aliases in various contexts because of the way things work - e.g. you have a "handle" on things like irc and I am "RevK". I am "RevK" on a few World of Warcraft realms too. I am known to some as "The Reverend". Having been given an orc by a customer, I also ended up being known as Thrall Horde because we set up facebook account in that name, and that has been kind of adopted by myself.
At one point I was briefly known as Bill (with email of firstname.lastname@example.org) because someone called William was trying to get bill.me.uk off me via Nominet dispute process. I called myself Bill for the discussions as someone going by Bill would have more right to bill.me.uk than someone called William, surely :-)
Anyway, there have been a couple of cases recently where the question of a person's name has come up.
One is Nominet me.uk domains that have to be registered to an individual. I have one registered to me where I am using the name Thrall Horde. I think that is valid. It is me, and I am not hiding that fact (not fraudulent). There are people that know me by that name, and some may only know me by that name.
Another case is RIPE getting confused by the notion that people can have any name they choose. They want your "official" name when applying for PI space and fail to understand the idea that we don't have "official" names in the UK.
From what I can tell there are countries where people do have a single "official name", probably countries that do have ID cards, which we don't, yet.
So, am I right? Am I legally allowed to call myself anything I want for non fraudulent purposes? Or is there one true official name that I have? If the latter, how is it that a simple self declaration like a deed poll is good enough to change my name for passport, driving licence, bank account, etc.?
I am pretty sure of the idea of having any name I want, but less sure that I can have more than one name in use in different contexts at the same time. I really don't know, and my googling is not getting me the answers.
Update: Some interesting references. It looks like there was once a restriction on changing a Christian name (from baptism) but that being generally not the case now, and in general one can simply adopt a name - its a matter of providing evidence that you have done so in some cases for some purposes. Some rulings seem to suggest a man cannot have two names at once but it seems also recognised that many people (particularly actors) do just that. It seems even the passport office will place an "observation" that someone is also known as stage name. Perhaps I should make Thrall Horde my stage name and get a note on my passport :-) The key thing is that a name is simply a (non unique) means to help identify an actual person - and if the name does that, and is not used for fraud, then it is your name!
Update: Nice article on names and computer systems.