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#349220 - 10/22/07 08:55 PM Dangers of libel when real life inspires fiction
elle Offline
Koala

Registered: 10/11/05
Posts: 2966
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
A while back I wrote about using real life as inspiration for your fiction, and I briefly mentioned taking due caution to avoid referencing real people because of the dangers of being sued for libel.

Here's an example of a libel case that has just been ruled on against the writer. Mathieu Lindon, his publisher, and a newspaper editor (who printed the passages in question) were fined for defaming members of France's National Front party. Lindon wrote The Trial of Jean-Marie Le Pen to speak out against race murders that occured in France.
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#349246 - 10/23/07 01:12 AM Re: Dangers of libel when real life inspires fiction [Re: elle]
haridas Offline
Shark

Registered: 10/20/07
Posts: 359
Loc: India
What if one gives a disclaimer in the book?

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#349247 - 10/23/07 01:28 AM Re: Dangers of libel when real life inspires fiction [Re: haridas]
elle Offline
Koala

Registered: 10/11/05
Posts: 2966
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Do you mean the type that says something like "This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is unintentional and co-incidental."?

It would have to be true smile

If you really did use Uncle Joe as inspiration for a character in your book and he recognised himself and thought you portrayed him badly, it could be much easier for him to prove that you damaged his reputation, than it would be for you to prove either that what you wrote was the truth, or that you did not base your character on him.
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#349248 - 10/23/07 01:46 AM Re: Dangers of libel when real life inspires fiction [Re: elle]
haridas Offline
Shark

Registered: 10/20/07
Posts: 359
Loc: India
Yes. Something like that.

Once you write the word co-incidental it should be safe?

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#349264 - 10/23/07 04:41 AM Re: Dangers of libel when real life inspires fiction [Re: haridas]
elle Offline
Koala

Registered: 10/11/05
Posts: 2966
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
No, not at all. What I meant by "it would have to be true" is that you would have to practically pass a lie detector to be really safe.

You won't be covered if someone can prove that you used them and caused them even anxiety or something like that. It is so risky.
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#349278 - 10/23/07 05:49 AM Re: Dangers of libel when real life inspires fiction [Re: elle]
haridas Offline
Shark

Registered: 10/20/07
Posts: 359
Loc: India
So, this disclaimer has no value?

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#349279 - 10/23/07 06:09 AM Re: Dangers of libel when real life inspires fiction [Re: haridas]
ChelleT&L Offline
Chimpanzee

Registered: 09/03/05
Posts: 7165
Loc: Lake Lanier, Georgia
The disclaimer only has as much value as the amount of truth it represents.

All authors base characters on people they have met or know, unconciously if nothing else. We notice a tic or a personality trait that is interesting, it sticks in our head, then it comes out as a character - usually blended in with characteristics of other people. This type of character or even plot, is what that disclaimer covers - the unintentional similarity between a completely fictional character we create and someone we've kind of noticed in our path.

But if we conciously take a "fictional" character, conciously base him on someone we know - then the disclaimer is no longer true. It was not an unintentional or co-incidental similarity, we did it quite intentionally, and the disclaimer holds no value. Esepcially if the person suing can prove that the character is based on him/her.


Edited by BellaHarmony (10/23/07 06:10 AM)

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#349427 - 10/23/07 04:00 PM Re: Dangers of libel when real life inspires fiction [Re: ChelleT&L]
elle Offline
Koala

Registered: 10/11/05
Posts: 2966
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Yes exactly.

Those disclaimers are particularly to clarify whether a story is based on a real life incident/person or whether it is fiction. Someone might watch a movie, for example, and come away thinking "that was so realistic - was it based on a true story?" Then the disclaimer provides the answer to that - no, it was fiction, or yes, it was based on X.
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#349811 - 10/25/07 09:13 AM Re: Dangers of libel when real life inspires fiction [Re: elle]
Vance - Crime Editor Offline
BellaOnline Editor
Wolf

Registered: 12/22/05
Posts: 5411
Loc: Gloversville, New York
If you use something or someone real in your book or story, the best thing to do is ask if you can use the person, business, or other brand name and then have them sign something like a contract or something and keep in mind, the brand or person may also want to be compensated for their use as well.

You are better off, especially in a work of fiction, to completely make places and people up from your own imagination.

Also, be sure to thank them in your book as well.


Edited by WrestlingEditorVance (10/25/07 09:15 AM)
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#351153 - 10/30/07 01:15 PM Re: Dangers of libel when real life inspires fiction [Re: elle]
LoloK Offline
Newbie

Registered: 10/16/05
Posts: 7
Loc: Botswana
Hi everyone! I'm new to the forum.
This topic is so timely for me. I am half way through a novel based on an incident that took place in the Delta here in Botswana. I've mostly based it on the rumours that have sprung up around this incident. It involves a woman whose son is killed by wild animals, hyenas. It happened. I have changed all names, I've researched the case and changed the woman's career, where she lives etc (though not the country). Do you think I'm still in trouble? What if I change the animal to lions- though I like hyenas and have become a bit of an expert? Or maybe instead of the woman being American she's something else foreign? When is different different?

I find this topic a bit blurry. I often write stories inspired by what I read in the newspaper.

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