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  1. #21
    June Casagrande

    Re: Using real names in writing a book without their permission, is it legal?

    (We should probably replace "lie" above with "untruth.")

  2. #22
    Steven L'Abri

    Re: Using real names in writing a book without their permission, is it legal?

    You're calling me a troll?

  3. #23
    Joseph Watson

    Re: Using real names in writing a book without their permission, is it legal?

    I am sure there is a reason why, within the cover of many books, it states:

    All characters in this book are fictional and any resemblance to living or dead is purely coincidental. Or something like that.

    I have to agree with Steven and would stay safe. In addition, before you start name-calling, do some research:




    Clearly, any writer should consult with an attorney however and not take advice from this website seriously.

  4. #24
    Jude Thompson

    Re: Using real names in writing a book without their permission, is it legal?

    Thanks for the advice. Eva, I think I'll do as you suggest and see what my agent says - when I get one! I will also do some research as suggested by Joseph. It's all a bit of a jungle when you've never done it before.
    One brightening thought, at least if I want to change someone's name I can get the computer to do the entire book at the touch of a key!
    Thanks all

  5. #25
    Thresher Shark

    Re: Using real names in writing a book without their permission, is it legal?

    Mentioning names in a passage, or creating them main characters could give them legal recourse against you and any profits from the sale or "media rights".

    I attempt to use names that I am not familiar with, and especially of people I don't know or have known in my past.

    It's strictly my opinion, but using names of people that you went to high school with is a bad idea. Using names of your friends (or enemies) is not smart either, when the idea of money gets thrown in the mix it tends to change everyone's demeanor.

    I have a file on my computer where I create character names for men, and women, as well as corporations, firms, products, and anything out of the ordinary that I need a possible name for.

  6. #26
    Anthony Ravenscroft


    Firstly, the question itself is poorly written. Unless you're going to make up names like Smedwor Grswihm, you're likely to find yourself using real names.

    Secondly, there's no guarantee you'll avoid a lawsuit. You could write a story about a Manhattan runway model who's an absolute shining pinnacle of Goodness, & end up getting sued by a potato farmer in Wales.

    Thirdly, when you feel the need to swipe from Real Life, you're admitting your weakness as a writer. The more you swipe -- names, personalities, events -- the less a writer you are. If you can't create something from whole cloth, then maybe you could at least create -- emphasis CREATE -- a composite from multiple sources.

    Fourth, if you're using your writing to get even with people for wrongs from the past, you've got an agenda, & polemic of any sort is rarely entertaining.

    Lastly, the more a "public figure" the named person is, the less likely that you are going to risk a lawsuit. Hence, yes, picking on scurrilous scumbags like Coulter or O'Reilly or Limbaugh is an easy target because (the thinking goes) they have less privacy to be invaded than the average working stiff.

  7. #27
    Marcus Teague

    Re: parsing

    Lol. Anthony hit the points I'd say, mostly (though, I'm a big fan of O'Reilly and Limbaugh, who merrily point out truth, but that's another topic. This is writing).

    Using real characters and factors from real characters is a good idea to carve out the form of characters (because you are basing them on real live persons), but using a different name and maybe some phsyical attributes help devise some strength in creativity.

    And besides, I'd question someone being able to make a lawsuit out of it.

    My name (Marcus Teague) isn't copyrighted. Heck, my internet pseudonym (Colonel Marksman) isn't copyrighted. I can file all the lawsuits for someone using my name, but if lawyer is smart enough, he'd simply ask if the name was copyrighted. If not, no law is broken.

    But besides the point, I could probably write a book on a villian named Hill A. Re'Clint to leave a certain meaning to something, and not get sued. (How's that for a scumbag, Anthony?)

    At least... I think in the 1980s. Times have changed. Like people say, you can sue for just about anything. That's why we have "Caution: Hot!" On the boxes of microwave meals.

  8. #28
    Steven L'Abri

    Re: parsing

    <a href=" http://www.amo.org.au/artist.asp?id=1267
    ">So is this you, Marcus?</a>

  9. #29
    Anthony Ravenscroft


    Hey, though I often defended/defend Teflon Bill, I'm no fan of Hillary (she's far deeper in the pocket of the DLC), but that's a Smoko rant, innit?

    Someone could (in theory) swipe my legal name, & run around doing innocuous stuff with it. That's unlikely to get a court to even yawn (though my attorneys could probably make a very impressive cease-&-desist). But if such a thief starts doing stuff that could impact my personal, social, professional, &/or economic life, then there's basis for a lawsuit, including putting someone in jail and bleeding 'em blue for whatever items of value they might possess.

    That's roughly analogous to "saying bad stuff" about someone. You could make me a minor or even moderately major character without risk... so long as a "reasonable person" (one of those legal terms like "average man") could read the piece & not think more ill of me than previous.

    A "generic" name will be tougher to prove -- a bad guy named Bobby "Knuckles" Nelson, for instance -- than a more unusual name. And there are added identifying features that could build a case: city or neighborhood that the plaintiff is known to frequent, reside in, or otherwise be associated with; manner of speech or dress; distinctive personal habits & affectations.

    The mnore you get into these concerns, the more you need a lawyer's advice -- & the more you need a lawyer's advice, the more you should probably be writing in the opposite direction.

    In the end, it all comes down to finishing the piece, then handing it off to a credible editor or agent, who will tell you within milliseconds whether they think it might be lawsuit-bait. If you need to be true to your whacky Muse, then wait for that discussion; if you'd rather improve the chances of never having that conversation -- that potentially deal-killing hurdle -- in the first place, then write different.

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