- 09 Aug 07
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This fortnight, Christy in Derry has the same name as another well known Irish singer and wants to do live gigs in his home area soon. Will he need to change his name in order to do so?
A: This is not as unusual a problem as you might think. In January of this year, Keith Urban filed a lawsuit against a New Jersey painter with the exact same name, and demanded that he hand over his website. Also, Mary Wilson of The Supremes has headlined a national campaign in the US to stop imposters from posing as the Motown group, or indeed any other classic group of the past. As a result of her campaign, at least 10 US states have now passed what are called “copycat laws”. Essentially what these laws do is prevent unauthorised impersonations, though they will allow authorised tribute bands that licence a famous group’s or singer’s name.
Your situation is slightly different to that of Ms. Wilson in that you are using your own legitimate name and it is simply coincidental that it is the same name as that of a well known Irish singer-songwriter. As a general rule, it is illegal to imitate a person’s personality for commercial gain without their express approval. Personality has been defined as comprising a person’s name, likeness, voice or other attribute of identity.
The courts in Ireland and the UK are more reluctant than their American counterparts to recognise a person’s rights when it comes to the exploitation of their image. Irish courts have relied on the laws of defamation and libel to provide protection against the unauthorised use of someone’s “personality”. I suspect that this other singer would rightly be concerned if you attempt to pass yourself off as him in any way. So if there is any similarity at all between the two of you, your music and how it is delivered, then I think you will have a serious problem. You must ensure that it is obvious to the public that when they book a ticket to your gigs that they are under no illusion that it is you and not the other Christy that they are going to see. The simplest way to avoid any problems is to use a different variant of your name, such as Chris or Christopher. If you think that despite this slight change in name that there are still similarities between you both, then I urge you to seek specialist legal advice before you start performing in public.