1. jc909
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    jc909 New Member

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    Basing a plot on real life and if it's legal to do so

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by jc909, Apr 26, 2015.

    Hi everybody! Long time listener, first time caller...

    I've been planning a project I've been wanting to write for quite some time. I'll spare the details because I haven't got them quite grounded myself yet. But I was hoping somebody could shed some light on a certain matter...

    My protagonist has a successful career as an entertainer, but it slowly falls apart and he struggles to deal with it. I've seen a documentary about a British comedian and some of the events that happened in his life strike me as really interesting, and I've been debating whether or not to adapt one or two of these into my project. One of which sees said comedian sacked from a television show he hosted because he was accused of taking bribes, so that he would feature named-brand products as prizes on his show. His final performance was noticeably bitter and made for uncomfortable viewing.

    I understand that using the likeness of somebody is dangerous ground, but my intention is to have my protagonist hosting a different type of show, with absolutely no reference to names or specific details. The majority of the rest of my protagonist's story is barely comparable to the comedian in question either. The only thing that remain similar is the situation itself. How safe is it to write something based on real events to this extent? Could I still be in trouble if somebody noticed the vague similarities, or would I be safe enough given how I'm not referencing any specific persons or shows?
     
  2. theoriginalmonsterman
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    theoriginalmonsterman Pickle Contest Administrator Contributor

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    We would all be arrested by now if it was illegal XD
     
  3. Lance Schukies
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    Lance Schukies Active Member

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    just change the names , and I would use fake brands too.
     
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  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I immediately see a worrying scenario: If the facts are more recognizable than you think, and you have the character actually taking the bribes, it seems to me that you could be setting yourself up for a libel suit.
     
  5. jc909
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    jc909 New Member

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    Well the matter in question happened around forty years ago, and the comedian in question is no longer with us. If it wasn't for the fact that I'd seen the documentary, I wouldn't have known of these events, though I don't know how widely known they are in general.

    My protagonist would merely be accused of taking the bribes as opposed to being caught accepting them. My intention is to have his downfall completely out of his control, so to have him actually taking bribes would go against this. So I'd like to think I'm covering myself by not having my protagonist have any likeness to the comedian in question, and also by not implying the accusations were actually true. But this is what I'm hoping to find out anyway...
     
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    First question: is this your first attempt at a publishable work? I'm guessing it is. If so, to paraphrase Jim Lovell in "Apollo 13", "There are about 500 things that have to happen (in order to get your story published). You're at Number 5. You're talking about Number 427." So, please go ahead and write it. It may very well be that, when you are done, there are elements of your story that will have to change in order to allow for publication, but my advice is to hold off until you are actually at the point of publishing to deal with them. My guess is that the experience you gain in writing the story will serve you well, even if you don't publish it.
     
  7. jc909
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    jc909 New Member

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    Thanks for the advice folks. I really appreciate it!
     
  8. AlcoholicWolf
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    AlcoholicWolf Contributing Member

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    If he's dead, you could use his name and make no differences to what happened. Dead people can't sue for defamation. And nobody can sue on their behalf.

    That's how the law works here, anyway.
     

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