What to use for legal name aliases [STYLE-961]

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STYLE-961 asks for some guidelines for what a legal name should be (there’s currently nothing about it on Style/Aliases).

Should a legal name alias be always the most precise (that is, longest and most complete) only? Say, if a legal name alias is “Mark F. Smith” and we find out that it’s more specifically “Mark Foo Smith”, should we replace the previous alias, or are both valid legal name aliases?

Also, should legal names usually have a locale? (I’ve generally not added one, but in fact a person’s legal name probably depends on the country they live in - Latvians for example change names, and I’d expect a legal name in Russia to be written in Cyrillic at least)


I think both aliases should definitely exist (so you get the artist suggested if you want to credit a “Mark F. Smith” as well as a “Mark Foo Smith”).
Maybe it should be possible to mark one legal name as the “main legal name”. If not then I guess “Mark F. Smith” would turn into a “search hint”?

Me neither. I only add a locale if I know a different name for another locale.

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I’d say the fullest known name should be set as the legal name, and shorter versions as search hints. If artists change their legal names, both the new and old names should be set as legal name, with the old legal name marked as no longer in use (and an end date if known).

It would be useful if there were a way to record that Samuel Graham John Dobalina Jr’s legal name is usually shortened to Sam Dobalina Jr, which would still be distinct from his artist name Mistadobalina.


In this example:
Mark Foo Smith is the legal name. The “F.” is an abbreviation of the legal middle name, therefore cannot be considered legal. Mark F. Smith would be a seach hint.
Of course, if all you know if Mark F. Smith, that is what we would use until someone finds out what the F stands for.

It is a rarity that a legal name requires a location, but there are exceptions to every rule:
I have seen some, as example, Hebrew names that have locations because outside of the Jewish homelands they are referred to by other legal names. Maybe it is a translation issue because I have also seen it on Asian artists.
And there are times that immigrants may have a legal name here and a legal name there. Example - John van Smith from Germany comes to America wants to assimilate, so he becomes John Smith. This really applies to the old Ellis Island immigrants (who could sign any name to the register) more than the modern immigrants who must “legally” change their name, but there


I’m of the mind that legal names absolutely should have locale, but since we don’t have a a “multiple languages (mul)” language code like Wikidata I only add one (but then always) if the writing system is not Latin Script.
“Multiple Languages” would be nice to have, I guess is what I’m saying.

My instinct is YES, as close to what the person would have in their passport/birth certificate as possible. If “Mark F. Smith” is the most well known/accepted, mark that as primary but add “Mark Foo Smith” as well.

What if someone performs under their legal name as a different project than their artist name, but they don’t use the most comprehensive version of their legal name?
Should it still be linked to their artist name with a legal name/also performs as relationship, or should their be a 3rd entry they are both linked to?

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I’d still link it, but have a (more exact) legal name alias for the legal name, I think :slight_smile:


There’s also the “Credited as” field, which allows “Elvis” releases to link to “Elvis Presley” say, without having to create a new alias (or artist). This is similar to what Discogs is doing and enables alternate spelling and “official” errors to be preserved without cluttering the system with a bunch of variant Artists.

Yeah I know that. So you are saying you would have an entry for the full legal name and put the albums they released under their partial legal name there?

Pretty much. Unless an artist explicitly creates an alias/alter ego for themselves to differentiate from their “regular” career, like Garth Brooks with his Chris Gaines persona, or Paul McCartney working as “Paul Ramon”, I prefer to create several artist alias/legal name entries and use them in combination with “Credited as”. That’s just my personal preference though, not anchored in official Style Guide (if I’m doing it wrong, please point me to the correct guidelines!)

That’s how I feel.
Very few people have artist identities that deserve separate entries. Especially if they aren’t “big stars”, because unless you get to a certain level of the business, you don’t have all of those contractual obligations that would prevent… Using your example, Garth Brooks legally could not put out a rock album, so he created Chris Gaines. It allowed him to be “artistic”, while not confusing a fan-base or interfering with legal issues.

Does anyone know about Lady Gaga and her heavy metal band? Of course not, it is not part of the business, it is all about “fun”.

I created this post

for that very reason

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