community accepted answer
You do not need to use your real name in the Ubuntu Community and when contributing to the Ubuntu project.
However, you do need to use a real legal identity to contribute to certain Canonical upstream projects (or have agreed a suitable alternative).
I asked Elizabeth Krumbach (a member of the Ubuntu Community Council, which is an official source) about this:
[Q]: I'm wondering if there is a real name policy in the Ubuntu community, or if it's okay to use a pseudonym/nick name/fake name?
[A]: It's perfectly fine to use a pseudonym.
You may find it's less common in the Ubuntu community because many members within the community are active in "real life" events like UDS and other conferences where we collaborate face to face and it's more common to refer to each other by given names there.
[Q]: While it might be okay to use nick names on IRC and in forums, how about these topics: Adding an OpenPGP key to Launchpad. Signing the Ubuntu Code of Conduct. Becoming an Ubuntu member.
[A]: All fine. The only trouble you may run into with PGP is people may not
sign your key unless you present government-issued identification to
confirm your identity, which isn't possible with a pseudonym.
The Ubuntu Project
What makes free software and Ubuntu work is kudos and recognition from fellow Ubuntu contributors. If people recognise your work, and want and trust in that contribution then the name doesn't matter, nor does the timezone, nor languages, nor … many other things.
It is always possible to get other developers to sign and upload a new package, if they trust your changes and are prepared to "put their name on it" (sign the upload). A PGP key is necessary if you want to upload directly to the archive—this is to stop just anyone uploading a trojan package version—but as long as you are marked as having the relevant permissions in Launchpad then you can upload a PGP key of your choosing and use that to sign uploads (which are then checked against the upload database).
The names (or optional email addresses) on the GPG key are up to you, what matters is whether or not other people are prepared to sign the identities, and if so which one(s). A classic example might be a person with identities for both "Alice" and "Bob" as names on their key. Some people might know them as "Alice" during weekdays, and at the weekend a different group of people know them as "Robert" (or Jekyll/Hyde, or Batman/Wayne). Each group would only sign the identity they recognise.
If sufficient other Ubuntu developers trust your nickname as being "you" and are prepared to share some of their own kudos by signing your key, then you are likely to be able to build up the necessary PGP trust, at the same time as building up general kudos in code/IRC/AskUbuntu/Forums/Email/UDS. But again, it's not actually necessary in order to upload as checking is against the Launchpad team and per-package uploader lists.
No contributor agreement is necessary for contributing to Ubuntu and none will be asked for.
Canonical steers and sponsors a number of upstream projects. These are setup within a legal framework to allow future relicensing as required, in what Canonical believes to be a legally-sound way. Code accepted into an upstream project needs to be covered by one of the following to be accepted:
- An employment contract
- A contractor's contract
- An individual Contributor Licence Agreement
- A company Contributor Licence Agreement
Number (3) is the one that is probably the one most relevant here. Both parties to the agreement (which both mutually sign) need to believe in the CLA and to sign it in good-faith. It's likely that the signer is going to want the assurance from Canonical that Canonical exists, and that the Canonical is going to want the assurance from the individual that the individual exists.
Each will want the other to abide by the assurances given, so it is likely that both a named individual signing for Canonical and the second party would use their real names in order to make the document worthwhile.
That said, there maybe special situations (eg. war-torn countries, legal situations, boats without a fixed address, …) where it is preferable to investigate what needs to be on the mutual agreement in those situations in more detail.