Legal Considerations with Writing

Using Real People to Inspire Your Writing

Writing a book is a tremendous amount of work. Hours, days, months, if not years of work are culminated in a singular event–the day that your book goes live and ready for purchase. Whether published traditionally or non-traditionally, you need to be certain that your hard work does not go to waist because of legal issues you could have avoided.

It’s up to the writer to educate themselves on what they can or cannot write about another person. To help you avoid any legal entanglements, below are a few considerations:

1. Defamation

Defamation is the act of communicating false statements about a person that injure the reputation of that person. With consideration of the First Amendment, a public figure cannot be defamed unless there is some degree of malice. In consideration of a non-public figure, defamation occurs when false statements are made when an author should have known better than to publish such content.

2. Invasion of Privacy

Invasion of privacy has several different considerations for an author:

 

  • It includes intruding in the private place or affairs of another and that intrusion would be highly offensive to a reasonable person.
  • Intentionally using the name or likeness of a person without their consent, and for your own benefit. It should be noted that a person who cannot be publicly identified can not make this claim.
  • Publishing private facts which are not of valid concern to the public, and which would be highly offensive to the reasonable person.
  • When presenting a person like they are something they are not, and which would be highly offensive to the reasonable person.

One way to bypass any legal issues is to obtain a release from your subject to write your book or article. Keep in mind that your subject will likely request access to pre-published content and may request re-writes to clarify content. Getting such a release may, however, be difficult to obtain.

If you choose to write about a public figure, make sure that what your writing is true. I think that this should be common sense. But, if you’re writing a piece of fiction, include a statement disclaiming it as fiction. If your fictional work is loosely tied to real life persons who you drew inspiration from, make sure that nobody can identify your muse through reading your project.

Using parody by creating a product that is so absurd that nobody would believe it to be true is a avenue to circumvent these laws.

This broadly illustrates some of the things you should know, but keep in mind laws can vary from state to state. If you feel concerned about your project, it would be wise to look closer at these laws and how they could affect your project. You might even benefit from seeking legal counsel while your still in the planning stages to avoid problems that could occur in the future.

Overall, this makes good sense. Just work within the confines of the law and you’ll be fine. If you’d like to learn more about how to inspire your writing, check out the Top 10 Ways to Find Inspiration.

Let me know your thoughts or concerns.

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