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View Full Version : Help me understand legal stuff again: would you consider this defamatory?



smellycat6464
12-19-2014, 10:35 PM
In my WIP, the general mystery I'm trying to establish is having a lot of contemporary cultural references in a setting that is clearly not Earth.

A character is chasing after someone leaning far on the villainish side of the character morality spectrum, and, after trying to describe her in vain to an officer, will shout "go after the one that looks like Katy Perry."

I want to do this because it's another real world reference and a contradictory description to mystify the reader, and I also plan to make this a running gag of sorts.

Now, after perusing some previous threads on mentioning celebrities, what I've gathered is that making them a character is usually a no no, you can't imply endorsement, and you can't defame them.

Here's the thing...am I defaming Katy Perry by comparing her looks to that of an antagonist? I certainly don't mean to defame her; I actually like Katy Perry.

But her lawyers may not know that.

I guess to be safe, I could make up a celebrity, or liken her to a one "Katie Berry," but I feel that ruins the illusion a tad.

Then again, there was that whole Scarlet Johanssen "image thief" incident this year.

Ugh, legal stuff. Grr.

Thanks in advance!

amergina
12-19-2014, 10:38 PM
You shouldn't really ask for legal advice on an internet forum. And people here certainly should not be giving it.

smellycat6464
12-19-2014, 10:41 PM
Okay, so this might be one of those "let you agent and/or editor worry about it" type of situations.

Regardless, thank you for the post.

cmhbob
12-19-2014, 11:07 PM
I can't imagine that's in any way defamatory, but as amergina pointed out, internet legal advice is worth every penny you pay for it.

Maryn
12-20-2014, 01:07 AM
Be aware, too, that regardless of Katy Perry's fame and familiarity to you, I've heard the name but would not know her if she came to the door. I just don't pay attention to the sort of music she does, nor to celebrities in general. So the easy reference is not going to work for all readers.

Granted, I may not be anything like your target audience.

Maryn, hardly anybody's target audience

Fruitbat
12-20-2014, 01:15 AM
I'm no legal expert but I have to say I wouldn't think twice about saying "Go after the one that looks like Katy Perry." That's not defaming her or using her as a character your story.

gettingby
12-20-2014, 01:15 AM
I have a story where I name dropped several musicians. It added humor to the short story, and I think it worked quite well. I never and don't plan on contacting a lawyer about this. I think it is fine. I did have that story workshopped and read by two professors. No one said that there was anything that could get me in trouble.

Fruitbat
12-20-2014, 01:18 AM
I have a story where I name dropped several musicians. It added humor to the short story, and I think it worked quite well. I never and don't plan on contacting a lawyer about this. I think it is fine. I did have that story workshopped and read by two professors. No one said that there was anything that could get me in trouble.

My understanding is you can use titles and names but where you have to be careful is using song lyrics. I'm sure there's a link on all that around here somewhere. I'll post it if I find it.

hearosvoice
12-20-2014, 01:23 AM
In my WIP, the general mystery I'm trying to establish is having a lot of contemporary cultural references in a setting that is clearly not Earth.

A character is chasing after someone leaning far on the villainish side of the character morality spectrum, and, after trying to describe her in vain to an officer, will shout "go after the one that looks like Katy Perry."

I want to do this because it's another real world reference and a contradictory description to mystify the reader, and I also plan to make this a running gag of sorts.

Now, after perusing some previous threads on mentioning celebrities, what I've gathered is that making them a character is usually a no no, you can't imply endorsement, and you can't defame them.

Here's the thing...am I defaming Katy Perry by comparing her looks to that of an antagonist? I certainly don't mean to defame her; I actually like Katy Perry.

But her lawyers may not know that.

I guess to be safe, I could make up a celebrity, or liken her to a one "Katie Berry," but I feel that ruins the illusion a tad.

Then again, there was that whole Scarlet Johanssen "image thief" incident this year.

Ugh, legal stuff. Grr.

Thanks in advance!

I'm a little confused and surprised you are worried about this. You are not actually claiming to write factual information about Katie Perry. You are comparing her looks to a character in an obviously fantasy/fictionalized story.

That said, since I am writing a memoir, I too had legal concerns about libel. I found a legal resources organization for artists in my area that offered affordable consultations for addressing specific questions/issues. I would do that (and keep in mind the lawyer I spoke with specialized in literary/publishing matters).

gettingby
12-20-2014, 01:29 AM
My understanding is you can use titles and names but where you have to be careful is using song lyrics. I'm sure there's a link on all that around here somewhere. I'll post it if I find it.

Yes. You are right. I never used any of the lyrics. I only mentioned the artists and a few song titles.

Jamesaritchie
12-20-2014, 01:31 AM
It's difficult to defame the rich and famous, and even if you do, there's nothing they can do about it unless you knowingly tell a lie they can show harms them in some way. Even with plain old non-famous people, defamation has pretty darned strict standards. If it didn't, we'd all be in court over something we say to someone. Seriously, have you never called anyone a bad name, or accused anyone of something horrible? Never?

If you want to, you can write, "Go after the one who looks like...aggg, what is that bitch's names? Oh, yeah, Katy Perry. That's it. Go after the one who looks like Katy Perry."

Do you really think you;ll get in any kind of trouble for this? Maybe with Katy Perry fans, but not with anyone else.

jaksen
12-20-2014, 05:33 AM
What confuses me is that in your fantasy world Katy Perry exists.

I suppose she could - urban fantasy, alternate history? But when I read fantasy - which I like to think is set in 'another world' - I don't usually expect to see celebrities or celebrity references from this world.

Haggis
12-20-2014, 05:55 AM
Folks, I'ma temporarily locking this one until the forum mods can weigh in. Their call if they want to reopen it.

Basically, like many of the others said, it's a terrible idea to ask for legal advice from a forum. Pretty much like looking for medical advice from a forum. Or tax advice. Or...well...you see where I'm going with this?

Feel free to ask for writing advice.