Spotting and Stopping Libel in Fiction
Fiction is a literary piece of poetry or prose that credits its origin to the realms of imaginative thinking. Simply put, a work of fiction should have no link to real people or events and is all formed from the thoughts and ideas of the author.
But sometimes fiction writers use real people in fiction and do a bad job at disguising them only to end up revealing their ugly secret or dirty past. This amounts to a type of defamation called libel.
If you have ever read a book and developed a strong conviction that a certain character portrayed negatively, accurately fits your description, and can cause damage to your reputation, this article will show you how to double down on your conviction and seek lasting legal correction for libel using DoNotPay.
Libel in Fiction
The paths of libel and fiction rarely cross, but when they do, it can be disastrous for both the author and the person defamed.
When acts of libel are found in fiction writing, it is usually because the writer may have:
|Referenced a real person||This could be a person who was part of memorable experiences while growing up. They may have (consciously or not) depicted them as fiction.|
|Failed to properly disguise them||The writer may change their name in the story but there are some other details that can be a dead giveaway like ethnicity, physical appearance, location, occupation, and past activities.|
|Failed to issue a disclaimer||A disclaimer is a warning that tells readers not to misconstrue the characters in the fiction as linked to any real person.
A failure to issue a disclaimer (even though the writer did not write with a person in mind) can give rise to legal consequences from anyone that feels and can prove the story is about them.
|Disparaged the person||Even when it is clear that a writer may have created a work of fiction after a real person, they may not be liable for libel unless they describe the person in an ugly or embarrassing light, or reveal their secrets.
Persons described as good people rarely sue because they can't point to any damage caused by good publicity (except invasion of privacy, in rare cases).
For writers, it is generally advised to have a lawyer or an editor with a good knowledge of potential defamation landmines review a work of fiction before publishing.
How to Prove Libel in Fiction
As with most defamation cases, the burden of proof usually lies with the person who claims defamation. Here are five things to prove:
I am the fictional character
This is the hardest to prove and it means the writer must have given away many closely matching hints to establish a visible connection between the fictional character and the plaintiff.
What was written about me is entirely false
They will also have to prove what was written as false.
The writer acted with negligence or actual malice
For the part of negligence, it must be shown that the writer failed to obtain permission or consider the adverse effect of such publication. The proof of malicious intent is reserved for persons who are popular figures or public officeholders.
The writer is not a privileged person
A privileged person is a person protected by law from defamation lawsuits. They may include journalists, judges, or public officeholders.
The libel has caused me significant damages
It is not just enough that what was written is bad, the plaintiff will also have to show how it has caused significant injuries and damages to reputation.
Ways You Can Deal With Libel in Fiction
People tend to think a lawsuit is the only way to tackle libel in fiction. Here are two other things you should do before heading to court.
Contact the writer
You can first contact the writer in person or through phone and tell them to retract their publication, correct the libel and issue an apology. This may work for cases where the defamer is a close friend, a family member, or a work colleague.
Send a cease and desist letter
A lettered threat formally known as a cease and desist letter will spell out your displeasure, provide proof of libel or slander, demand a retraction and apology, and threaten legal action if correction is not made. You can get professional tailor-made Cease and Desist letters from DoNotPay.
Get a Custom Cease and Desist Letter from DoNotPay
DoNotPay is the perfect, convenient solution! The cease and desist letter DoNotPay drafts will detail the information about the case, demand retraction, and warn against any impending statements instantly, in line with your state laws.
All you need to do is:
1. Search “defamation” on DoNotPay and select the Defamation Demand Letters service.
2. Tell us about your situation:
- Were the statements slander or libel?
- What were the statements?
- Why are they false or misleading?
- What consequences have you suffered as a result of these statements?
3. DoNotPay will automatically create a demand letter on your behalf and include the appropriate state law that applies to your situation!
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