1. Vaalthurion
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    Vaalthurion Member

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    The Difference Between Allegory and Getting in Trouble

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Vaalthurion, Sep 26, 2010.

    I noticed on many (if not all) the works of fiction I read that there is an excerpt somewhere on the Copywrite page that reads: "All characters in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental." With that in mind, where is the line drawn if I want to use allegorical places/events/plots to represent actual political and religious views in my book?

    Understandably, there are laws against making a character named Aboma and make him look like and act like Obama. But does the same rule apply if I want to involve a specific religion or political perspective in my storyline?

    Thanks!
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    btw, it's 'copyright' not 'copywrite'...

    religions and political perspectives are slammed, skewed, blued and tattooed all the time in fiction... there are no laws against doing same in the western world... however, as salman rushdie learned to his dismay, there are in some freedom-suppressed places such as iran...
     
  3. Horizon Noise
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    Horizon Noise Member

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    If you base a character on an actual person and make it obvious you could be in trouble. If not, you're fine. It's as simple as that.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Actually, it isn't that simple. Public figures are fair game, for the most part, at least in the United States. You still have to avoid actual libel, but you can lampoon and spoof, and even get away with vicious innuendo.

    With a private individual, you can get into trouble much more easily.
     
  5. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    What Cog said. Do some research on what constitutes libel for a private versus a public individual. There's a whole subsection on that in my associated press stylebook, so PM me if you need more help and I'll get some detailed info for you.
     
  6. Vacuum Eater
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    Vacuum Eater Senior Member

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    Are there really laws against basing characters on a political figure? I say this because I understand that there's a book (Mister, by Alex Kurtagic) that has a villain in it who's not only called Obama but looks just like the President. I came across it on Amazon during my never-ending search for new science fiction books, and it's still there, so either no officials have heard of it, or there is no such law. Hmm.

    Edit: Okay, just read Cog's comment and got the answer there.
     
  7. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    No. Cogito and Mallory are right, above. The First Amendment would preclude such laws, in large part. And as noted above, with a public figure there is A LOT of leeway in terms of what you can do. People can and do write fiction with recognizable public figures in it.
     

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