Artist seeks to escape past: please advise.
October 9, 2007 11:54 AM   Subscribe

I am an artist with an hell of demons in my past, who wants to start a website for my work without any of said demons tracking me down via google. So... I would like to start using a professional pseudonym, without changing my real name legally. How simple/complicated is this, and how do I go about it?

If I ever sell anything, will the checks need to be written to my real name? (Do Prince's paychecks say "Prince Rogers Nelson"?) Really, my main concern is being able to publish and copyright work without anyone who knows my birth name being aware of my artwork, and I'd like to do everything legally and correctly. Any suggested resources are welcome. Thanks!
posted by anonymous to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
My understanding is that the artwork would appear with a copyright attributed to your pseudonym, but would in fact be copyrighted to you. I'm unclear as to who would be writing the checks you mention -- if you're selling your work via your site, you can arrange payment through a PayPal-ish thing, which means that no one who's actually buying the work need know your name to pay you. Any situation in which you would literally have checks written to you, however, does necessitate that the check writer know your real name. Unless you have your name changed legally (as I imagine Prince has done by now), I don't think there's any way to cash a check made out to your pseudonym (though if you change your name, it, you know, won't be a pseudonym anymore).
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:04 PM on October 9, 2007

Doing Business As (DBA)
posted by ludwig_van at 12:04 PM on October 9, 2007 [2 favorites]

You don't say why you wouldn't change your real name legally, but if you did (for these professional purposes) you could still go by your current name all the time, and most people would never know the difference.
posted by hermitosis at 12:05 PM on October 9, 2007

This may be of little help, except for that part where it says, "You should consult an attorney for legal advice on these matters." Sounds like a plan!
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:08 PM on October 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

You could also form an LLC using the new name so that all payments, copyrights, etc. belong to that entity. Probably a good idea regardless of other options you take.
posted by trinity8-director at 12:50 PM on October 9, 2007

Check with an attorney. DBA sounds like the way to go, but there are ways to find out who is DBA what.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:58 PM on October 9, 2007

This is anecdotal, but I think this is pretty commonly done by performers. For instance, I know a bellydancer who teaches dance lessons. If you take a lesson, you make the check out to her dancer name. Her dancer name is not her legal name, but it is accepted by her bank, and she uses it exclusively for dance-related purposes.

I assume she did one of the things described in ludwig van's link- I don't think it was difficult. I'll update if I find out the details.
posted by Secretariat at 1:04 PM on October 9, 2007

+1 DBA.
posted by adamrice at 1:28 PM on October 9, 2007

I second the LLC suggestion - forming an LLC is really easy, and you could incorporate your pseudonym into that, something like "Anonymous Fine Art, LLC" or "Anonymous Studios, LLC."

It's a good idea, anyway, to limit your financial liability.
posted by Ostara at 2:31 PM on October 9, 2007

related also related
and also
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:15 PM on October 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

May not be relevant to you as UK-related, but in the UK an entity can have a "trading name" that is not the same as its legally-established name, and a bank, once convinced that the trading name is indeed such, will accept cheques paid to the trading name. So, for example, company ABC Limited could have a trading name XYZ Holidays, or whatever; I presume it could also have a trading name Joe Bloggs, A N Other, John Doe, Genius Artist.
posted by londongeezer at 5:40 PM on October 9, 2007

pastabagel says:

DBA sounds like the way to go, but there are ways to find out who is DBA what

Could you combine LLC and DBA? For example, if your real name is Jane Smith, could you form "Sam Jones, LLC" and then file a DBA as "Penelope Johnson"? Then whoever tracks down Penelope Johnson could only find Sam Jones and not the Jane Smith (assuming that they have no compelling reason to keep looking).

I don't really know the answer and have no legal training. It just seems like it should work. I wonder if you have to use "LLC" at the end of the company name. Can you go by "Sam Jones" or must it be "Sam Jones, LLC"?
posted by amfea at 6:18 PM on October 9, 2007

You can likely get away with a variation on your name without trouble; for years, I was legally Daniel Arthur Foglinazzio, but every paper following me around other than SSN and birth certificate said Dan Foglinazzio. I could like have gone with Arthur (or Art) Foglinazzio) and gotten away with it.

Even now, after a legal name change, I'm legally Dan A Foglinazzio Burns, and can cash checks in my old name, my new name, and to Dan Burns without issue.

that's not my real name up there, you know that, right?
posted by davejay at 10:24 PM on October 9, 2007

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