Naming Names: The Pseudonym in the Name of the Law
56 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2007
Pseudonyms are of course nothing new under the sun. We know of them in a good many and diverse range of figures, including resistance fighters, saboteurs, gangsters, heroes, vulnerable parties to a lawsuit, authors, and actors. However, behind this surface familiarity is a very complex phenomenon. And it appears increasingly complex as one takes into account the proliferation of pseudonym use as facilitated by rapidly developing information and communication technologies. In this paper we canvass the main areas of law in which the pseudonym appears and extract and explicate key legal principles and considerations. This legal analysis is augmented by consideration of social, cultural, and political dimensions of naming practices. We survey the phenomenon of pseudonym use to reveal a vast variety of different uses of the pseudonym, for different purposes, and under different conditions. We propose a conceptual framework for managing the multiplicity of meanings that the term "pseudonym" has taken on in use today. This framework, we believe, is useful not only for better understanding what is going on in the phenomenon of pseudonymity today but also for normative analysis, discussion, and debate about how law and public policy should approach the pseudonym.
Keywords: Naming, Name, Pseudonym, Identification, Anonymity
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