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Topic: Autobiography and Rights of those written about

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Subject: Autobiography and Rights of those written about
Date Posted: 10/20/2008 3:46 PM ET
Member Since: 7/11/2008
Posts: 649
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Ok so I'm writing an autobiography as one of my books.  What are the laws that protect "us" when we write the personal things so that people don't sue us? For instance, my mother has major mental problems and that will be a LOT of my book.

Can anyone point me in the right direction? I don't want to go through emotional HELL writing this book and then not be able to publish it. 
Thank you!!!!   Dawn

Date Posted: 10/21/2008 9:25 AM ET
Member Since: 5/6/2008
Posts: 5,128
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I saw something fairly recent somewhere in Writer's Digest. You could pick a search engine and look for  laws to protect writers, or some such thing. I'm sure there's a way around it.

Subject: Know what you mean...
Date Posted: 10/30/2008 12:17 PM ET
Member Since: 4/16/2008
Posts: 7
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I think the most obvious thing would be to make sure you fictionalize enough to ensure that even if your mother realized that you were talking about her, there would not be enough in the narrative that would allow someone else to positively identify her as that character. Name change is of course a big deal, but altering details of circumstances would definitely help.

 

I'm in the same boat, writing about my father's abusive history and family. I'm also writing a novel based on real events in my tiny hometown that, when published, if I'm not careful, will enable everyone to pick out who's who in it. It's that small of a town, that everybody knows everybody. But it's good stuff. you can't make stuff like that up. So I have to use it! :)

Date Posted: 10/30/2008 4:13 PM ET
Member Since: 10/13/2007
Posts: 36,445
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I would suggest finding Torey Haydens website, she talks about writing and the things she has written about are true happenings and about child abuse. She might mentioned it somewhere on her site, but you can try and email her and see if she would know.

Plus if you go through an agent they will be able to give you all this information.

But I do not think there is any law that could stop her from sueing, since you can sue for just about anything, slander, liable or emotional distress etc.

 

Subject: your subject rites
Date Posted: 12/5/2008 9:42 AM ET
Member Since: 10/12/2008
Posts: 349
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I was in the same situation as I'm writing about my family (the best subject) and my 'vicim' is my ever in error father. And it was explained to me that the best thing is not to name them, and to write a disclaimer, something like : this is based on real people and experiences AS THE AUTHOR HAS SEEN THEM, but for their protection the stories have been edited and their names changed. There is little they can do as the book is your intellectual property. But one should always be careful not to directly slander the subjects one is writing about... The other option for you is to publish it as fiction. Even though is is a memoar then you have very little to worry about. You can add something like: This is based on real life stories but has been edited to fit the book and timeframe.... But if you expect your family to be really difficult about it the best thing is to ask a lawyer or a publisher as they will know for sure how to avoid any problems. Best luck with your book.
Date Posted: 12/5/2008 3:09 PM ET
Member Since: 7/11/2008
Posts: 649
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Thank you so much, Lenka!!!

Date Posted: 12/8/2008 12:23 PM ET
Member Since: 6/25/2007
Posts: 5,637
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There is little they can do as the book is your intellectual property.

This is not necessarily true.

Authors have been sued for libel, even after changing names of characters in books.

Also, even if what you write is good, positive things, and the person recognizes themselves, they can sue for invasion of privacy.

If you are going to get your book published (by a legitimate pub. house- not a vanity or self publishing press), the Publisher will make sure you have all the legal details- releases, permissions, etc-- in order.

If you have further concerns, please contact a lawyer. Not just a family lawyer, a lawyer with experience dealing with the publishing business (entertainment and media lawyers).

ETA:  this link might help you with more information:   http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=55518



Last Edited on: 12/8/08 12:33 PM ET - Total times edited: 4
Subject: Example
Date Posted: 1/26/2009 8:08 PM ET
Member Since: 1/25/2009
Posts: 1
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There is an actress whose father was a problem in her life, and she explained the problems she had - but she and her father were incommunicado, and stayed that way for life. The best way to handle this is to avoid defamation but tactfully discuss the influence of family complications on you or something of that sort. If your mother okays what you write, you probably do not have to worry. And one more thought : this same actress attacked the press and individuals that wrote about her life in a way she deemed to be private in nature. By threat of court action, the publications were altered to avoid litigation. In addition to the suit, there was also a campaign of fans that attacked the writer, but that is another story.
Date Posted: 2/2/2009 6:10 PM ET
Member Since: 1/30/2009
Posts: 5,696
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I know this was posted a while ago but if you are serious, and think you may be in danger of being sued - contact an Intellectual Property attorney.  "Fictionalizing" is fine if you are going to publish as fiction, but if you plan to publish as non-fiction, I would get my facts straight in this post "A million Little Pieces" world.  Also, you can only win a libel suit if you can prove what was written is untrue.  For example, if I mentioned my mother's stint in rehab and she did, in fact, go to rehab, what I wrote would not be libelous.  If she did not, it would.  I hope this helps!

Date Posted: 4/18/2009 5:47 AM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 2
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  •    
  • Date Posted: 4/18/2009 9:12 AM ET
    Member Since: 6/25/2007
    Posts: 5,637
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    Is that SPAM above me? Sure seems like it.

    Date Posted: 4/18/2009 11:39 AM ET
    Member Since: 1/30/2009
    Posts: 5,696
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    Yup.  Sure looks that way.

    Date Posted: 4/19/2009 10:00 AM ET
    Member Since: 6/25/2007
    Posts: 5,637
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    Ah, and account is now suspended.

    Subject: Autobiography and Rights
    Date Posted: 5/7/2009 10:13 PM ET
    Member Since: 5/7/2009
    Posts: 1
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    A fine focus .The best Autobiographies will focus on a single event or individual. You will both narrate your story and use specific details to engage your reader.

     

    johnrocks

    www.legalx.net



    Last Edited on: 5/7/09 10:16 PM ET - Total times edited: 3
    Date Posted: 5/8/2009 9:24 AM ET
    Member Since: 6/25/2007
    Posts: 5,637
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    More SPAM? Ah, account is closed. This thread really attracts SPAM.

    Last Edited on: 5/8/09 9:24 AM ET - Total times edited: 1