1. captken
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    captken Member

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    Historical characters in hysterical situations. Legalities.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by captken, Feb 6, 2014.

    Honestly, I don't know which forum is appropriate for my question but this one looks most likely.

    I want to e-publish a short novel but I'm concerned with legalities that might pop up because some of my
    characters are or were historical figures. JFK, LBJ, RFK, MLK and possibly others show up in the tale but all in very unlikely situations. Sgt. Joe Friday from "Dragnet" and Forrest Gump also have bit parts. The only passage I can recall that might be a problem is a reference to Bobby Kennedy teaching a course at the FBI Academy called "Bald Faced Lying 101."

    Could I be getting myself in trouble?

    Ken
     
  2. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Most of the figures you mention were public figures. Unless you write something that does real harm to their reputations and can be said to have been done with malicious intent, I don't see a problem.

    OTOH, Sgt. Joe Friday and Forrest Gump are both fictional characters, and so you will need to be sure that you don't plagiarize anything that was written about them. It's always dicey basing something you write on someone else's characters. Unless the reader is familiar with the old TV show and the film (not in any way a given), any references you make to them will be lost. It's also a reason for potential agents or publishers to dismiss you as an amateur. Just a thought.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you might find yourself in hotwater poured by rfk's family, over the derogatory slant of the fbi course bit... and using characters that are now 'owned' by major film studios [paramount/universal] could also be a problem...

    so my best advice is to seek advice from a libel and literary attorney, not well-meaning fellow members of a writing website...
     
  4. captken
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    captken Member

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    Oh my goodness! I strongly dislike dealing with anything legal. I don't need to publish it anyway. I had enough fun just writing it.
     
  5. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    Using another author's fictional characters could be dicey. I wouldn't do it. See here. "A writer contemplating using the characters of another writer would [be] well-advised to seek out the counsel of an experienced intellectual property lawyer."
     

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