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Serena Casey
09-28-2011, 09:16 PM
How in good conscience can we use the disclaimer "any resemblance to actual events or persons living or dead is completely coincidental" if it isn't really true?

Manuel Royal
09-28-2011, 11:10 PM
I guess we can't. Do you have a specific example in mind?

ETA: I've never used that disclaimer myself. I commonly see it at the ends of movies (even where it sometimes seems obvious that events and characters are in fact based on real events and people). I don't know if anyone's ever successfully sued for defamation of character under those circumstances (a writer basing a fictional character on him).

And I've got no idea when or if the disclaimer is legally required. In the recent movie The Social Network, Aaron Sorkin used the real names of people, companies and organizations, but made up untrue stuff about them (according to some of the people involved).

kuwisdelu
09-28-2011, 11:15 PM
How in good conscience can we use the disclaimer "any resemblance to actual events or persons living or dead is completely coincidental" if it isn't really true?

It doesn't have to be true if you write fiction. :tongue ;)

Shadow_Ferret
09-28-2011, 11:17 PM
Yes. Id need some examples where it isn't true before I can comment. I never thought about it otherwise. Since I write fiction, that disclaimer is true in the case of my writing..

Devil Ledbetter
09-28-2011, 11:24 PM
It's funniest when the author bio reads identical to the MC.

Serena Casey
09-28-2011, 11:37 PM
I guess we can't. Do you have a specific example in mind?

The MC in my book was inspired by a real person. Therefore, he has a few similar traits. I've made him different enough that it would not be obvious who it was, but in any case, the MC does resemble him. And that is not coincidence.

I'm not worried about someone recognizing him/herself and suing or anything like that. I more or less just wanted to know if that statement ever gave anyone else pause or whether it's commonly understood that it's not always 100% true.

So now that I've pretty much advertised the fact that I'll be lying in the disclaimer statement, I'm going to go with kuwisdelu's take on it. :)

It doesn't have to be true if you write fiction. :tongue ;)

Manuel Royal
09-29-2011, 12:01 AM
So now that I've pretty much advertised the fact that I'll be lying in the disclaimer statement, I'm going to go with kuwisdelu's take on it. :)Don't do that. The disclaimer is not part of the work of fiction; it has an actual legal meaning. Talk to your publisher about it.

ShyWriter
09-29-2011, 12:07 AM
I'm not worried about someone recognizing him/herself and suing or anything like that. I more or less just wanted to know if that statement ever gave anyone else pause or whether it's commonly understood that it's not always 100% true.

I think it's commonly understood - by me anyway - to be a blanket "cover your a$$" statement.

Serena Casey
09-29-2011, 12:47 AM
Don't do that. The disclaimer is not part of the work of fiction; it has an actual legal meaning. Talk to your publisher about it.
Well, I kind of meant that tongue-in-cheek, but I'm self-pubbing so that's why I'm asking here. Maybe it should have gone in that section, I don't know.

Jamiekswriter
09-29-2011, 01:56 AM
INAL, but I would think as long as your differences overcame your similarities, the burden of proof would be on the person suing. Of course, anyone can sue you for any reason. It's still going to cost you money for attorney and court fees even if it the similarities were a 100% coincidence.

How likely would this person be to sue you? Did you make him a child molester or something equally heinous in the story? Are you telling secrets told in confidence and thinly veiling the circumstances? Are you harming his reputation if the truth were to come out? Is this a revenge fic for you?

If it's completely innocent and you like how this guy looks and something he did and then wove a fictional story around it, I think you'd be less likely to open yourself up to a lawsuit. Again -- I'm not a lawyer.

You may want to consult one before pubbing if you're worried.

Serena Casey
09-29-2011, 03:49 AM
INAL, but I would think as long as your differences overcame your similarities, the burden of proof would be on the person suing. Of course, anyone can sue you for any reason. It's still going to cost you money for attorney and court fees even if it the similarities were a 100% coincidence.

How likely would this person be to sue you? Did you make him a child molester or something equally heinous in the story? Are you telling secrets told in confidence and thinly veiling the circumstances? Are you harming his reputation if the truth were to come out? Is this a revenge fic for you?

If it's completely innocent and you like how this guy looks and something he did and then wove a fictional story around it, I think you'd be less likely to open yourself up to a lawsuit. Again -- I'm not a lawyer.

You may want to consult one before pubbing if you're worried.
The person is dead and the story was inspired by him but not about any actual things he did. It is highly unlikely that anyone in his family would recognize him, partly for that reason and partly because I changed other details. Not to mention it's highly complimentary of him. But that's not my worry anyway; I just wondered about that "coincidental" statement because I've seen it on books and movies where it's pretty clear that resemblances are intentional. Thank you for your advice - I appreciate it!

Al Stevens
09-29-2011, 03:53 AM
The person is dead...Then there are no privacy issues to worry about.

Shadow_Ferret
09-29-2011, 04:14 AM
Don't do that. The disclaimer is not part of the work of fiction; it has an actual legal meaning. Talk to your publisher about it.

I was thinking this. Because the author doesn't put it on the book, it's usually put on the imprint page (or whatever it's call) that shows the publishing history and the ISBN and such.

Anyway, here is the standard disclaimer. (http://www.rjgeib.com/about-me/disclaimer.html)

Sorry. No, here's a real explanation of the Disclaimer (http://johnaugust.com/2003/fictional-events-disclaimer).

Serena Casey
09-29-2011, 06:05 AM
I was thinking this. Because the author doesn't put it on the book, it's usually put on the imprint page (or whatever it's call) that shows the publishing history and the ISBN and such.

Anyway, here is the standard disclaimer. (http://www.rjgeib.com/about-me/disclaimer.html)
Hysterical :D Thanks for that.



Sorry. No, here's a real explanation of the Disclaimer (http://johnaugust.com/2003/fictional-events-disclaimer).
Okay, yeah, that's basically the question I was asking, and the answer makes sense.

Probably what I'll do is make my own disclaimer so that it's true but still protects me just in case some other character has a sue-happy real-life counterpart.

Mac H.
09-29-2011, 01:07 PM
I have a book at home with that standard disclaimer on the front page.

Then, in the preface, the author explains that the stories are based on real events.

I suspect the legal guys hadn't actually read the book.

Mac

Jamesaritchie
09-29-2011, 08:29 PM
How in good conscience can we use the disclaimer "any resemblance to actual events or persons living or dead is completely coincidental" if it isn't really true?

I don't use it, and I never claim it to be the case. This is a phrase the publisher slaps on my work to cover their own butts.

I think it was Lawrence Block was added to this publisher inserted phrase. His one line add on was, "The world is flat."

He made his point.