First, the law of defamation is not concerned with who you intended to target, but who gets struck by your barbed arrow. . What that means is unintentional defamation is actionable. . "Woops!" is not a defense to libel. . If you shoot an arrow in the air, where it lands, not where you intended it to land, is all that matters. . Lawyers who vet, and writers who write, need to watch out for innocent literary bystanders. While publication of truthful information is generally considered a full defense to libel, private individuals can sue for highly offensive or embarrassing truths. . so, if your book goes too far and reveals intimate areas of a persons life sexuality, family life, medical procedures, and mental (in)capacity you may invite a right of privacy claim. . The right of publicity involves the unauthorized use of a persons name or likeness for commercial gain. .
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While it is plain very tempting to retaliate against those who have inspired us (or harmed us if your protagonist isnt likable, it is even more important to disguise his identity. Create a frankenstein monster. . Combine or clone several peoples physical traits and biographical facts, so no single person's actual dna appears in your book. If the work is not "of or concerning" an identifiable person, you have a complete defense to a libel lawsuit based on fictionalization. . Speaking of Frankenstein, the dead cannot be defamed. . As such, they make terrible plaintiffs - but excellent targets for vengeful authors. . Libel law, if the original is dead, s/he can't sue for libel. . If this last suggestion gives you an additional reason to outlive your literary prey, consider it my gift to you. . And remember, he who laughs last, internal laughs best. I would be remiss if I did not bring up three other legal horrors. .
Heres a run-down of a few techniques that can minimize the chance of getting sued for libel in fiction: (a) disclaim; (b) disassociate the doppelgänger from its real-life counterpart; (c) depict but do not disparage; and/or margaret (d) wait for the real-life person to die before publishing your novel. With regard to option (d revenge is best served cold at your publication party - preferably with a sauvignon Blanc, riesling, or Gewurztraminer. Disclaimers, while helpful, are by nature, self-serving. . While a disclaimer cannot insulate you or your publisher from a libel suit, it may support the defense that identification with the real person in your novel is unreasonable. . The words a novel in the subtitle of your book is considered by some attorneys to be the best form of disclaimer. . In addition, a full disclaimer should appear on the reverse title page of your novel, or skillfully integrated into the introduction or preface of your book. Change the physical characteristics of your main character enough to disguise his identity. . The risk of being sued is further reduced if your main character is treated as a likable character rather than a vicious and unscrupulous evildoer. .
Wyoming, sued Penthouse over an article that described. Prings ability to cause men to levitate by performing oral sex. . Initially, the federal District court found for Miss Pring, awarding her.5 million in damages. . On appeal, however, the court of Appeals reversed the decision; holding that no reasonable person could believe that was described was actual facts. . Embrace tastelessness if done properly it can take the chill out of free speech. . Note the italicized. . If done improperly, and the hypothetical reasonable reader thinks your failed parody conveys actual facts, the first Amendment may not be available to you. . "Obvious cues like levitation or time travel can help telegraph what is First Amendment protected fiction from fact. . When it doubt, have the book vetted by a publishing attorney.
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From a libel defense perspective, this drawn-from-life portrayal failed, in part, because the author included personal characteristics that made the plaintiff recognizable, and mixed them with other traits that were false and defamatory, but, still believable. Now back to your question. . Are you sure you never identify the real person who inspired your main character? . Aside from his name, can he be identified from his ethnicity, appearance, historical or other details found in your book, so that someone who knew him (or knew of him could identify him as a character in your book? . While you may not identify your ex-friend by name, if you havent completely disguised him, the potential for trouble exists. . Is your friend a public official or public figure? . If so, he has another hurdle to jump. .
Unless he can prove by clear and convincing evidence that what you wrote was deliberately or recklessly false, there's a good chance - rex but no guarantee - short you'll be excused from liability under what's known as the "Actual Malice Standard.". Merely changing the name of your friend isnt enough. . you might consider transforming him beyond recognition. . A broadly drawn caricature of your friend, which is difficult to reconcile with your ex-friend, can be an effective device to stave off a libel lawsuit. For example, kim Pring, a former.
A basic understanding of libel law Libel is helpful. . Libel is defined as a false statement of fact of and concerning a person that damages their reputation. . If you were to say that fiction, which describes a world that doesn't actually exist, was incapable of defaming a real person, it would be logical, but wrong. Happily for novelists (and, the weekly world News when the model upon which a fictional character is based sues, generally, their claim doesn't get not survive summary judgment. . For a novel, or other fictional work, to be actionable, its detail must be convincing.
The description of the fictional character must be so closely aligned with a real person that someone who knows that person would have no difficulty linking the two. . And, there must be an implicit belief that what the author said notwithstanding her denials was true. . What about a fictionalized autobiography? . If your memoir is fictionalized, but you don't make that clear to readers, there's no veil of fiction to hide behind for purposes of libel law. Despite the breathing space the first Amendment affords writers, not all libel-in-fiction lawsuits are resolved in favor of the author or their publisher partner. . For example, in 2009, in the. Red Hat Club case, the plaintiff was awarded 100,000 in damages by a georgia court for a fictional portrayal modeled on her. . The original claimed that her fictional counterpart, falsely depicted in the bestselling novel as a sexually promiscuous alcoholic who drank on the job, defamed her. .
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The legal plan Consequences of Using real people in Fiction. Ask a lawyer Series, when Fiction reality collide, by Attorney lloyd. Q : my main character is reviews loosely based on a real person. I mean, that's who inspired. I never identify him by name (he's my ex-friend) and i've made up 90 of the events that happen in the book. I'm worried after the book becomes successful, that he'll come back and try to take a stake in the millions. . What can I do to prevent this? . A: so you ask, how do you discourage a prototype from becoming a plaintiff?
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