Using the real name of a person who died in a non-fiction account of survival
Question: I am writing a book about surviving in the North Atlantic after our boat capsized. The skipper of the boat drowned in dramatic circumstances that are central to the story. Is it legal for me to use his real name? Do I need permission from the family to do so? There may be some allusion in the book to negligence on his part, which put our lives in peril. Advice would be greatly appreciated.Answer:
As usual, I must point out that I'm not a lawyer and this is just my understanding. If you want dependable legal advice, you should probably consult an expert.
If this is to be a book of nonfiction, I believe you are bound by the same rules a journalist might be. As long as you do your homework, do not lie, and report the facts as best as they are known or you can discover them, you are free to exercise your right to free speech.
That's assuming that the captain in question is not a famous actor, writer, artist, or something similar, such that damage to his reputation might hurt his family's income.