by Tracy Gourley
(Oakmont Pa)

Question: I'm writing a novel that's Historical Fiction. I'm incorporating 2 of my characters into a disaster that happened in 1940. I'm also including some of the victims that died on the ship as well.

Do I need the permission from the victims families to use them in my book?

MY book is fiction but there are so many historical facts.

Answer: I am not a lawyer and cannot give legal advice. But here is my understanding...

You can put public figures from history in your book, as they are in the public domain.

As for other real people, if you portray them in a negative light, such that you harm the reputation or business interests of their family today, that could be problematic. You should perhaps consult a lawyer regarding this.

But if you are sticking with the historical facts and portraying people fairly, you should have no problem -- just as any journalist does when they write news articles. You do not need their families' permission. (Though it might be helpful to interview them for information you can't get anywhere else.)

Best of luck.

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