I would like to seek advice on the legal use of pen names. I am a children’s book writer and I have been using a pen name for the past couple of years. I have heard that there is a law penalizing the usurpation and improper use of one’s name. I want to know whether I have violated it considering my use of a pen name. I hope you can give me advice on this matter. Thank you and God bless.
The use of pen names is not an uncommon practice and it is even recognized and allowed under Philippine laws but subject to specific limitations. According to the Civil Code of the Philippines:
“Article 379. The employment of pen names or stage names is permitted, provided it is done in good faith and there is no injury to third persons. Pen names and stage names cannot be usurped.”
As this law expressly provides, use of pen names is legally permitted under Philippine laws. Thus, you may use a pen name for your work as a writer as long as it is done in good faith and with no harm to other persons. Furthermore, the cited provision provides that the pen name you are using is protected by law and cannot be usurped considering that you have a vested right in its use (Melencio Sta Maria, Persons And Family Relations Law, 2010).
With regard to your concern on the improper use of one’s name in relation to your use of a pen name, you have nothing to worry about since the use of a pen name is generally not considered improper as already explained above. Likewise, the law penalizing usurpation of a name does not apply to your case since use of a pen name is not a usurpation of a name unless you are using the name of another person as your pen name. Thus, while you may use a pen name as a writer, make sure that the pen name you are using is not the name of an existing person.
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org