Permissions required for Fictionalised “true” story?

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    • #72036486
      JAW48
      Participant

      A true story from the mid 1940’s has come to me. It needs some fictionalisation particularly in enhancing characters. All dialog would be fictional. I assume using the characters ‘real’ names is not possible without permission but need to verify this. Would prefer to use real names and will seek permission but tracing all decedents….problematic. Can anyone advise?
      All people involved in the true story, either actually or through their parents will know the story is about them/or parents. Also will the names of ships and particular named houses/places within the true story need to be changed if the characters names are changed?

    • #72036613
      JackWolcott
      Participant

      Is your work to be a history or a fictional work? It makes a huge difference. In the first instance you are reporting on an event that happened; in the second you are creating a fiction which contains made-up dialogue and, presumably, made up events and characters as well.

      If you are creating a history you don’t need permission. Every fact will/should be verifiable, based on the historical record. If you are making assumptions based on the record you must identify them as such.

      Fiction you can make up as you go along. To what extent your fiction can mirror actual facts is problematic, the stuff you’ll need to hire a good intellectual property attorney to determine.

      My advice, as a published writer with more than 50 years experience, is to create a short outline of what you intend — either fiction or history — and run it by an attorney accustomed to working with materials such as you have.

    • #72036662
      JAW48
      Participant

      That is my difficulty. It is based on a true event but with a few added characters and all dialogue will have to be fiction. In spite of this I want to use “real” names of characters if possible. If it were not such a recent event, 1940’s, I wouldn’t worry. If it were like Mutiny On The Bounty there wouldn’t be a problem I assume. There would be no negative portrayal of characters so it may be safe to proceed. Yes, a good Art Law practitioner is necessary. I guess it would be called a “dramatised version of true events”.

    • #72036806
      paulears
      Participant

      Well, you can’t libel the dead. You can add the usual disclaimer at the start – “This movie depicts historic events but some characters have been created, some events totally made up and much of the dialogue totally invented …….”

      The very successful ‘The Crown’ created all kinds of events that may or may not have happened, and no way would Buckingham Palace ever confirm or deny them. To my non-legally trained mind, the only real thing is defamation – if they decide your product impacted negatively, and they have more money than you – you are stuck! Excluding the young soon to be ex-royals, taking a pop at our royal family is pretty safe, they don’t use the courts and just suck it up. Doing the same thing to a celebrity would be very different. You could risk showing them the script, but what if they complain? I suppose it saves an after action court battle, but wrecks the project.

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