fictional book writing and involving government

Question: If you involve government corruption in your book that's fictional can that get you in trouble. for example writing some novel on a scandal that is just made up, but uses the president and government. Names are different though.


Answer: No, there are many fictional stories about government corruption, and many stories with fictional Presidents as well. Some writers will even take an actual scandal and change a few details to make it into fiction, or create a fictional version of real events. For instance, the recent film Argo tells the story of the Iranian hostage crisis, but changes the story to make it look like the CIA conducted the rescue operation, rather than the Canadian Ambassador.

Comments for fictional book writing and involving government

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Oct 23, 2012
okay
by: Anonymous

so it is okay to use actual name because its just a novel

Oct 23, 2012
Response
by: Glen

To clarify: you can have a fictional President (different name) and have him do anything you want.

You can put a real President in a book, but you cannot be malicious. You cannot defame him or his family. A certain amount of satire is allowed, but it's safer just to use a fictitious President.

Feb 13, 2016
Government agencies vs. individuals within a given agency
by: Jerry S.

I'm having trouble ascertaining potential defamation liability if I use a real federal agency in my novel but do not reference any real people within that agency. (Positions-yes, specific individuals - no.) It is a preposterous premise in a humor/satire novel, so no reasonable person could infer actual past or current behavior by employees of the agency. I can switch to a fictitious agency if need be, but I'll lose some value if I do this. Again, I'm concerned about blowback by the agency as a whole--not a libel lawsuit by a specific individual. I've never worked for this outfit and by no means is the novel intended as retribution or any kind of tell-all. Thanks much. Jerry

Feb 14, 2016
to Jerry S.
by: Glen

As always, if there is money involved, you should consult a lawyer...or your publisher should. However, if you look around, I think you'll find a lot of novels, films, tv shows, etc. satirizing the CIA, MI5, etc. You might check what disclaimers they use.

Mar 03, 2016
Fictional writing involving government agencies
by: Jerry S.

Thank you, Glen. Yes, that has been my take from the beginning. Movies and TV shows in particular portray fictional officials and agents of real government agencies doing all sorts of objectionable/illegal/embarrassing acts. The "Brooklyn 99" TV show comes to mind, with the NYPD being shown in highly unflattering ways, but obviously in a fictional and humorous context. But you're right--best to consult an attorney. Some of these producers probably do get sued, and have the resources to defend themselves. Thanks again. Jerry

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