Can I use the names of real people?

by Julie

Question: I am writing a non-fiction novel using my own diaries as reference material. My question is, can I use the names of real people without their permission? I am concerned that at least one of my 'characters' could be offended by what I reveal and that they could take legal action against me. If it is my story, as seen through my eyes and it is the truth can anyone stop me from telling it?

Answer: I'm not a lawyer, and you should consult one in a case like this. Most likely, if you sell your work to a major publisher, they will have some expertise in this area. In many places, one runs the risk of being sued for libel if you damage the reputation of a living person. There is some lee-way made for political satire of famous individuals.

It's rather similar to the rules of journalism: you must back up your facts and be careful not to insinuate things that are unproven.

Let me recommend a link to an article that talks about this issue...

Again, the laws may be different depending where you live and publish, so you may need a more specific expert opinion.

Comments for Can I use the names of real people?

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Jan 27, 2013
by: Julie

Thankyou for your reply and the link was very helpful.

Jan 23, 2015
sound advice
by: Manuel ALONSO

Aside from the great advice given to you by the editor of this site, I'd add that it really depends if you play on using first + last name in such a way that leaves no doubt as to the identity of the person you're referring to. Doing so would probably profoundly alter this person's reputation. Either way, if your book becomes a best seller, you don't want to run the risk of causing harm to that person, or risk litigation. The main question to ask yourself is whether revealing the name of this person is central/critical to your book, or if using fictitious won't take anything away.

Good luck


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