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View Full Version : Using real names for memoirs?



sommemi
04-01-2009, 09:49 PM
Ok - I'm new, so forgive me if I'm posting in the wrong place. It was suggested that posting in the roundtable would get more feedback about this.... (DEAR MODS.... if there is a better place for this, feel free to move or tell me to repost!)

Is there any law about using real names in a book? That is, if it's an anecdotal story about someone and not slanderous or something? (In other words, no need to change the name to 'protect' anyone from anything?) I'm working on "memoirs" basically of my father's and there are tons of people he mentions in his stories. Some people I'm sure would be proud to see their names in print.... others, I don't really know how they'll feel. I'm pretty sure all mentions are positive though...
I want to use real names to give credit where credit is due basically... not to mention I think most of these people would be honored that their names are 'out there' in print somewhere. But do I need permissions from all of them first? What if they have passed away or I can't find them to get permission?


Also, has anyone ever created a non fiction story where they include an index in the back of the book with all the names of everyone mentioned? I'd like to do this so we can give some of the books to people who were mentioned and they can have a list of everywhere they are mentioned. I just think it would be interesting to have a list of who is referenced.

sommemi
04-03-2009, 01:05 AM
anyone? anyone?

IceCreamEmpress
04-03-2009, 01:33 AM
But do I need permissions from all of them first?

No. You don't need permission to use someone's name in a narrative of real-life events.

However, if you write anything defamatory or libellous, that person has standing to sue you for damages. So be careful that you don't make any allegations of wrongdoing that you can't support.

Honest mistakes still leave you liable. My brother once wrote a newspaper story about a group presentation by a number of substance-abuse counselors. He arrived slightly late at the presentation, and mistakenly included one of the counselors with those among the presenters who related their own details of past addictions.

The guy sued and won for defamation of character, because he himself (unlike many of the colleagues with whom he was presenting) had not had personal experience with addiction. Fortunately, my brother's employers backed him and covered the cost of the action and the (quite small) damages.

Tip: be very careful. Err on the side of caution if need be.


Also, has anyone ever created a non fiction story where they include an index in the back of the book with all the names of everyone mentioned? I'd like to do this so we can give some of the books to people who were mentioned and they can have a list of everywhere they are mentioned. I just think it would be interesting to have a list of who is referenced.

This shouldn't be a problem to do, and may be doable with indexing software, as along as you check for all the variants/nicknames (the software may not know that "Dick Jones" and "Richard Jones" and "'Greasemonkey' Jones" are all the same person).

sommemi
04-03-2009, 10:59 PM
This shouldn't be a problem to do, and may be doable with indexing software, as along as you check for all the variants/nicknames (the software may not know that "Dick Jones" and "Richard Jones" and "'Greasemonkey' Jones" are all the same person).


Thank you for the story about your brother! I'll make a note to be extra careful. Thanks!

And as far as indexing, that's not a big deal. I'm familiar with HOW to, just wasn't sure if it seemed like a futile kind of thing to do. Would it seem so out of the ordinary that people would be like "huh?" or is it something that's been done before... I guess what I'm looking for is feedback on if it's a good idea or a bad one. Or just a waste of time.... ? kwim?