One of the benefits of becoming a member of Equity is that when you join (or re-join) you get an Equity name. This Equity name is protected while you are a member, meaning that no other person can join Equity with the same or similar-sounding name as you. The Equity name is normally the name you will perform under and becomes part of your professional brand and is required for ease of distribution of royalties and for casting clarity.
You should not be discouraged from joining Equity if your first choice of Equity name is not available. Members are free to perform under a non-Equity name, as an Equity name does not necessarily prevent you from using something different as a professional name when working, or indeed having different names for different acts you do. Members can have a variety act name or pseudonym listed on their membership record with Equity.
Members’ Equity names are protected by Equity (only) for their time as a member (including whilst on Honourable Withdrawal) and for up to 12 months after a member’s death. We will not hold or reserve names for future use, even for artists whose membership expires. If a membership subscription expires, then a current or new subscriber may successfully apply to use the same name in the meantime. Equity names and stage names in general are not subject to copyright. Therefore, we cannot stop others in or out of the industry having or using the same name as an Equity member in their professional work.
The Equity naming process is separate to Spotlight as we are different organisations with different members. We have a similar naming guidance policy, but each organisation determines its own naming policy and makes final decisions on which names will or will not be allowed. For GDPR reasons, Equity does not share members’ information with Spotlight.
Choosing your Equity name
When deciding whether to keep your current name or change it to something new, make sure you:
Check spellings and abbreviations
Equity does not allow members to have the same or similar-sounding names. The following are NOT sufficient to distinguish you from other artists:
Shortened forms of names
Stewart/Stewie/Stu or Rebecca/Becky/Bex
Names that are spelled differently but sound the same
Judi/Judy or Smith/Smyth
Oliver Well/Oliver Wells
A middle initial
Ruby L Klein/Ruby Klein
The addition of Senior or Junior
Joseph Carroll/Joseph Carroll Jr.
Surnames beginning Mc or Mac are treated the same
The following ARE sufficient to distinguish you from other artists:
|O' at the beginning of the name
|Double-barrelled surname or middle name
|John Smith-Jones/John Matthew Smith/John Smith
In addition to the above, an Equity name cannot have a single initial as a forename or a surname (e.g., W Pryce). A middle initial is permitted, as is multiple initials as a forename or as a surname (e.g., IAL Diamond).
Check the industry as a whole
If your name can be easily confused with someone else who is working, or has worked, in the industry, we recommend that you change it. Even if they are not working in the same professional field.
For example, we would not allow Sam Mendes as an Equity name because of the likelihood of confusion with the director Sam Mendes.
You should also think in terms of a global market and avoid duplicating names with overseas performers who may not necessarily be members of Equity or Spotlight, such as Rachel McAdams or Terrence Howard.
You should also make sure you do not use the name of artists who are deceased. Choosing Laurence Olivier for example would not only cause confusion, but would also undermine your credibility.
You should also avoid using the name of a famous fictional character, such as Mickey Mouse.
In addition to the above, we will not allow anyone to join Equity with what sounds like a company name, for example, Extreme Circus (but a name like Andy the Magic Man would be allowed as it is clearly an individual and not a company). This is particularly important as the Equity name is printed on the PLI certificate and membership card, which could lead to confusion.
Finally, we WILL allow Equity names that are the same as a famous person in a completely different professional field, for example Lewis Hamilton or Paul Smith.
Include alternatives in your application
When making your application please give three distinct options for your Equity name in case your first and second name choices are not available. This will save any delay in processing and approving your membership to the union.
Changing your Equity name
The fee for changing your Equity name is £38 for full and subsidised membership. It's £9.50 for education and training members. There is no charge if you are also changing legal name.