Referencing real and fictional people/characters in novels – legal implications?

Asked by: Aaron Andelija

Can I mention fictional characters in my book?

Get permission from the copyright owner.

If you’re concerned about the copyright owner raising a fuss, it might make sense to be proactive and ask for permission. Of course, that permission may come with a price tag, so weigh the pros and cons before reaching out. Rely on the fair use doctrine.

Can you use real people in a fictional story?

Using real people in your fiction—whether they are correctly named or not—can be legally hazardous. If an author includes enough details that a specific fictional character is identifiable as an actual person, that person could possibly pursue legal action.

Can I use real places in my novel?

Yes. You can make up places. Just make sure to indicate in the foreword that everything in your writing is purely a work of fiction, especially when you use the names of famous places. Otherwise, you might confuse readers – especially the young ones – if such a place exists.

Do you have to get permission to write about someone in a book?

Some of the most common questions I hear from picture book biography writers: Q: Do I need permission to write a picture book biography about somebody, living or dead? A: Permission is technically not required if the biography subject is a public figure unless their estate has created a kind of legal fortress.

Can you use someone else’s character in your book?

A: Characters are protected by copyright as long as they’re original and well-defined—the traits that probably make them desirable to use in your own work.

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Can I use famous people in my book?

Using someone’s name, image or life story as part of a novel, book, movie or other “expressive” work is protected by the First Amendment, even if the expressive work is sold or displayed. Therefore using a person’s life story as part of a book or movie will not be deemed a misappropriation of the Right of Publicity.

Can a novelist Be Sued?

Libel & Privacy Law In The Real World. Writers anxious about libel / privacy law can, in most cases, relax: It’s exceptionally rare for a novelist to be sued for libel.

How do you write a book without being sued for defamation?

Do tell the truth

  1. Don’t make claims based on assumptions or opinions. Adding “in my opinion” before a statement won’t save you in a libel case.
  2. Don’t embellish or exaggerate. If your book is nonfiction or memoir, then make sure it is truthful in every detail.
  3. Don’t overlook invasion of privacy laws.

Can I sue someone for using my name in a book?

Misappropriation of the Right of Publicity

Using someone’s likeness, name, or identifying information for advertising, promotional, or commercial purposes may get you sued. Whether the person is a private individual or public figure, you would be liable for damages, including punitive damages.

Can you quote someone without permission?

Unfortunately, quoting or excerpting someone else’s work falls into one of the grayest areas of copyright law. There is no legal rule stipulating what quantity is OK to use without seeking permission from the owner or creator of the material.

How can I write without being sued?

12 Ways to Avoid Getting Sued When Writing Your Memoirs by Angela Hoy, and

  1. Change your name. …
  2. Change the names of everyone else in the book, even pets.
  3. Change the descriptions and even the gender of some of the folks portrayed in your book.
  4. Change all locations.
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What is it called when you write about someone else?

biography. noun. a book that someone writes about someone else’s life.

Is it legal to publish a summary of a book?

Are book summaries legal? It is perfectly legal. It is possible to have copyright in words, images, etc., but not in ideas, plots, characters, storylines, etc.