Dictionary.com defines Pseudonym as:
1840–50; < Greek pseudṓnymon false name; see pseud-, -onym
alias, nom de plume.
The Wikipedia entry on Pseudonym states:
"A pen name may be used if a writer's real name is likely to be confused with the name of another writer or notable individual, or if their real name is deemed to be unsuitable."
The entry further highlights examples of famous writers who have used nom de plume's and the reasons why; normally to conceal their real identity.
In the case of Stephen King, for example, he used "Richard Bachman" to assist with concealing the prolific nature of his writing, as well as a slight difference in style with his "Bachman" books.
To further quote Wikipedia:
"Authors who write in fiction and non-fiction, or in different genres, may use pen names to avoid confusing their readers, as in the case of mathematician Charles Dodgson, who wrote fantasy novels under the pen name Lewis Carroll."
And one of the most famous authors who used a pen name, or pseudonym, to conceal their identity was Mark Twain. His real name was Samuel Clemens.
But, is using a pseudonym as an author because you believe your real name to be "unsuitable" (doesn't suit publishing and may not assist with selling books), or simply desire to conceal your true identity equate "Identity Theft" if the name you choose belongs to a real person?
Let's take a look at this question a bit more in-depth, shall we?
I've already provided a brief overview of the definition of "Pseudonym" and why many authors use a nom de plum, or pen name. Please feel free to read the Wikipedia article on Pseudonyms for yourself for more information.
However, simply because an individual has chosen to use a "false name" as an identity under which to write, and perhaps publish their writings, does this constitute what has become known as "Identity Theft"?
I looked up information on "Identity Theft" on Wikipedia as well, and this is what I found.
Sub-divide identity theft into five categories:
1) Criminal identity theft (posing as another person when apprehended for a crime)
2) Financial identity theft (using another's identity to obtain credit, goods and services)
3) Identity cloning (using another's information to assume his or her identity in daily life)
4) Medical identity theft (using another's identity to obtain medical care or drugs)
5) Child identity theft.
I won't go into detail about each type since I provided the link to the article for you. You may read the information for yourself. I did, however, discover an additional type of "Identity Theft" listed within the Wikipedia article.
Synthetic identity theft
A variation of identity theft which has recently become more common is synthetic identity theft, in which identities are completely or partially fabricated. The most common technique involves combining a real social security number with a name and birthdate other than the ones associated with the number. Synthetic identity theft is more difficult to track as it doesn't show on either person's credit report directly, but may appear as an entirely new file in the credit bureau or as a subfile on one of the victim's credit reports. Synthetic identity theft primarily harms the creditors who unwittingly grant the fraudsters credit. Individual victims can be affected if their names become confused with the synthetic identities, or if negative information in their subfiles impacts their credit ratings.
This text makes it clear that anyone using a Pseudonym for writing purposes only is not perpetrating "Identity Theft".
In addition, I found many articles from police departments, including one from my home town, which made the conditions of "Identity Theft" perfectly clear. Personal information tied to a name must also be used by the "perpetrator" of any "theft". Personal information includes (and I post it here so readers may educate themselves, and protect their information against Identity Theft):
What Personal Information Should You Protect?
- Social Security Number
- Date of Birth
- Phone Number
- Bank Accounts
- Mothers Maiden Name
- PIN Numbers
- Investment Information
- Credit Cards
- Any Personal Info
Armed with the above information, what conclusion do you draw? Is using a pseudonym, a name only, under which one writes and publishes, considered "Identity Theft" in your opinion?
Not in mine. It is a time honored tradition. In fact, I have a close family member who is an award winning, well known Romance author who publishes under a pseudonym, and I really can't blame her. Publishing under her real name wouldn't sell books. Her pseudonym is as steamy and elegant as her award winning writing!
However, she hasn't been accused of "Identity Theft".
I have... and not by anyone who is famous or already publishing under Rose Weaver, but by someone who received a miss-routed package and freaked out.
They've refused to release my package, even though the company in question has admitted they screwed up and has attempted, countless times, to retrieve it and deliver it to me.
They have admitted the package doesn't belong to them and have even opened it.
They refuse to release it, even though they have been notified of the situation, my real name, and can see the address on the package is mine, not theirs.
They refuse to release the now opened package which verifies exactly what I have said about where it came from, and why, because they insist they fear "Identity Theft". They have now reported the situation to the fraud department of the shipping company, although the shipping company in question is already aware of how badly they screwed up and that there is no fraud involved.
Today, the shipping company is once again attempting to retrieve my package with a police escort. Yes, that is correct. Police officials from two different cities are now involved...
Because I use a pseudonym; an apartment number was missing from my package; and someone within the shipping company decided to take it upon themselves to ship to a different Rose Weaver I never knew existed before this comedy of errors, I have been accused of Identity Theft and Fraud, and police from two different cities are now involved.
The shipping company will not be named if they are able to retrieve my package and return it to me. They have admitted it is their error that began this chain of events, which personally, I don't find all that funny anymore.
If not, I shall name them.
They won't like that.