1. Guffaw
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    Guffaw New Member

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    Writing and the law

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Guffaw, Jul 28, 2013.

    Hi all, I'm doing research for a novel and I've come across a real person who I'd love to involve in the novel. She died in 1874 and I want my main character to be a descendant of her. Because she will most likely have real descendants can I do this? The main character isn't based on anyone living but the real person is fairly famous. Would I be able to include her? Also if anyone knows of any good sites I could use to find out what the law says about people in fiction that would be great. Thanks.
     
  2. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just change her name and the details that you can.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Unless the real person is a public figure, it's a risky decision to include a real-life person as a charater, even if you change the name and a few details.

    If you really must include this character, consult with a literary attorney. Only he or she will be able to judge, from the details of your character's inclusion, whether you are are at risk for litigation from the family.

    It may be possible to get a signed release from a member of the family, but that wouldn't necessarily preclude another family member from taking you to court.

    Check with a lawyer, not a forum of strangers who have unknown backgrounds and nothing to lose by giving you bad, if well-intentioned, advice.
     
  4. tinylittlepixie
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    tinylittlepixie Member

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    I would agree wholeheartedly with Cogito's advice, but add that it may be worth considering the light in which you are presenting a real life person. Are they being portrayed positively, or indeed even realistically? If not, this may be where descendants start objecting.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    that!

    to do anything else would be foolish in the extreme...

    to learn about copyright law: www.copyright.gov
     

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