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  1. #1
    dibbledabble is offline Junior Member
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    Can I use actual peoples names in book I'm writing without getting into legal issues

    What is the name of your state? Texas

    I'm writing a book that will be using a lot of my childhood experiences. Can I use the names of my family members and other people that I grew up with without getting into legal issues?
  2. #2
    divgradcurl is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by dibbledabble View Post
    What is the name of your state? Texas

    I'm writing a book that will be using a lot of my childhood experiences. Can I use the names of my family members and other people that I grew up with without getting into legal issues?
    Technically yes, but you might want to run it by everyone and get their buy-in first anyway. You never know what might set someone off, and even if they have a weak lawsuit, if they sue you, you still have to defend yourself, and that takes time and money.

    If you want to go ahead with this without permission, then make sure you read up on defamation, false light, public disclosure of private facts, etc., to make sure you don't end up writing something that is actionable.

    Why can't you just use made-up names?
  3. #3
    dibbledabble is offline Junior Member
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    I can use made up names but when I start writing about certain things that would be recognizable to others,could that start trouble?
    What I am doing is writing a book that is somewhat a fictional biography. It is about my life but will have more added. In order to do that,I am using experiences with my siblings, friends,etc. My concern is that they will recognize things and start making trouble like wanting mony,etc. If I use fictional names, will that clear me?
  4. #4
    quincy is offline Senior Member
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    A fictional work depicts imaginary events - but if a real person can be identified in your work of fiction, this person may be able to bring a libel suit against you. As in any defamation suit, a public person needs to show actual malice and a private person may only need to show negligence in order to bring a successful suit. Writer's usually must guarantee to a publisher, often in a written contract, that they have not libeled anyone in their work, so it is often wise to have an attorney review your work before submitting it for publication.

    There are several ways your depictions of characters can cause you legal headaches - one is where you, as the author, attack an actual person and this person can be identified by the readers. Another way is when you "disguise" the real person by altering some aspects of this person (with a false name or false description, perhaps) but the real person can still be identified. Another is when you, as author, pattern a character after someone you once knew but claim to have totally forgotten. Another is when you describe a real person but do not even know this person - the description is truly accidental.

    Disclaimers, often seen in novels, that state that all characters are imaginary, that all events are imaginary, and that any resemblance to people living or dead is totally coincidental, do not protect an author if readers can recognize real events or people.

    Written consent forms can protect an author if persons discussed in the author's work are willing to sign them, agreeing not to sue for libel. The author can also purchase insurance coverage - several publishing companies now include writers in their policies as a normal course of doing business with them. This insurance does not reduce the risk of being sued, but does reduce the financial impact on the author and/or publisher.
    Last edited by quincy; 08-11-2007 at 08:56 PM.
  5. #5
    breakaway is offline Member
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    Hi....isn't it that you are innocent until proven guilty?
    so if somebody sues you for something that you wrote, isn't the onus on them to prove it?

    And also, when you say that someone might recognize a ficticious character as being real, does it just take 1 person to recognize this to sue? What I mean is if I wrote a story about working at a place a long time ago (I change the name of the store and name of the coworkers), the readers do not have any idea who it is, but there's 5 people who I used to work with who know who it could be; would there be a case?
  6. #6
    quincy is offline Senior Member
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    The answers to all of your questions, breakaway, are yes.
  7. #7
    The Occultist is offline Senior Member
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    Something else you need to realize, breakaway, is that you don't need to be right in order to sue somebody. Anybody can sue you for any reason they want. Even if you have a slam dunk case and win the suit, you still just invested a lot of time and money into that suit. I think trials are something most people are simply trying to avoid, regardless of innocence or guilt. I'm a huge fan of "better safe than sorry".

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