It’s illegal to use a legal name!

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This OPCA concept is quite the assumption, yet one that is broadly perpetuated online. It was initially started by Kate of Gaia, (originally Keith Wilfred Thompson) who operates the Lose The Name1 website.  The theory of a “Crown copyright” on a legal name is the basis of this assumption.

The theory claims government authority flows from its ownership of a person’s name, that since there exists a Crown copyright on the layout of birth certificates and other official documentation, that this copyright also applies to the use of a person’s name. For these reasons, they are instructed to refuse to give their name to police, as it doesn’t belong to them and they would be in breach of copyright law by doing so.

U.K. Barrister Carl Gardner: 2 “It’s a kind of brew of pseudo-legal ideas. It’s the equivalent of thinking Harry Potter is science. It is nothing about law, and it is not harmless. Taking this daftness seriously can be legally dangerous. If people try to use such things to avoid their legal obligations they can end up with county court judgments or even criminal convictions. You may as well walk into court with a t-shirt saying ‘I am an idiot’.”

Facts are usually accompanied by substantiation, which if you note, (like most OPCA concepts) is glaringly absent here.

Firstly, if it was “illegal to use a legal name” surely one would be able to provide even one case of the prosecution of such an offense. Unfortunately none exists, because it is not illegal.

Secondly, if in fact the Crown did own my name, how is it possible that I can migrate to Russia or any other non-commonwealth nation and not only retain the use of my name, but that the Crown no longer has any part in that name on my behalf? Your legal personality and name is in fact your own intellectual property, and for these reasons you can transfer your property to any nation on earth, and do with it as you will. Only you are responsible for this name, and hold full liability to its actions.

Thirdly, as with all things copyrighted, a copyright is something that can easily be established by the copyright notice. So let’s look at those verifiable facts and put all assumptions aside.

The UK National Archives website 3 contains the “Crown Copyright Guidance” 4 regarding  the “Copying of Birth, Death, Marriage and Civil Partnership Certificates”. It states:

This guidance note sets out the arrangements for the reproduction of official birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates.” (’extracts’ in Scotland). Copyright in the layout of certificates is owned by the Crown.”

And then it goes on to make clear that the Crown DOES NOT assert any rights of ownership in the CONTENTS of the forms, (Eg. the names) only over the “layout and reproduction” of the documents…

1. “The Crown does not assert any rights of ownership in the contents of the forms.”

2. You are authorised to reproduce the layout of the form in any format including on the web, in films and in print. This authorisation is subject to the following conditions: a. That you must not use reproductions of certificates to provide evidence of birth, death, marriage or civil partnership. Where a copy is required to provide evidence that an event was registered you must order an official certificate (’extract’ in Scotland) from a local registration office or General Register Office.

b. That the material is not used to advertise or promote a particular product or service, or in a way which could imply endorsement by HM Government;

c. That you comply with the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Human Rights Act 1998. This guidance does not authorise you to reproduce the contents of any certificate containing personal data about living individuals;

d. That you reproduce the Royal Arms and any departmental logo only as an integral part of a certificate.”

Click to access reproduction-of-birth-death-marriage-certificates.pdf


In the U.S. 5 copyright protection does not extend to titles, names, slogans or short phrases, the Copyright Office has made that much very clear. You can not copyright your name, the title of your post or any short phrase that you use to identify a work.

According to the The Australian Copyright Council, 6 there have been a number of Australian cases in which courts have held that particular names, titles and slogans are not protected. As a result of these decisions, a name, title or slogan will not be protected by copyright. In these cases, the courts have generally arrived at their decisions because the name, title or slogan concerned is not an “original literary work” for copyright purposes. Factors that have influenced courts in reaching these decisions include: the word or phrase was not substantial enough to constitute a “work” for copyright purposes; or the phrase or sentence was commonplace, and therefore not original enough to be protected by copyright.

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