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WriterManJimbo
10-29-2013, 07:44 AM
Say I wanted to write a story about how Andy Kaufman has been living and faked his death and is now a spy.

And it's a work of fiction. He's dead -- presumably -- but what are the legalities behind this? Do I have to get some sign off? Is there any risk involved? Educate me!

JoeBanks
10-29-2013, 11:46 AM
Celebrities (and their estates after they have passed) retain a right of publicity (on a state-by-state basis) that would likely encompass the story you describe:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personality_rights

Howie428
10-29-2013, 12:15 PM
The story you've described is so much fiction already that you might as well change the name and make it fictional. You can still loosely base the personality on a celebrity and perhaps even call it a homage if anyone notices the connection.

I guess that if you wanted to you could write the Andy Kaufman version, but keep in mind that you might want to change it later. This approach worked for the E.L James.

WriterManJimbo
10-29-2013, 03:04 PM
The story you've described is so much fiction already that you might as well change the name and make it fictional. You can still loosely base the personality on a celebrity and perhaps even call it a homage if anyone notices the connection.

I guess that if you wanted to you could write the Andy Kaufman version, but keep in mind that you might want to change it later. This approach worked for the E.L James.

I used Kaufman as an example In my case, the 'famous person' is tied closely to the high-concept. But the person is dead and the thing is more of an urban legend than real. I'd say a bit more like Confessions of a Dangerous mind(only not a memoir and not of the living).

I imagine Bubba Hotep can get away with it...but maybe because it's so outrageous?

I also see things like THE LIFE AND DEATH OF PETER SELLERS that used a fictionalized Stanley Kubrick...so maybe it's 'okay'?

Howie428
10-29-2013, 05:26 PM
It's a strange thing about these issues that the more out there you go with your depiction, the more allowed it's likely to be. Once you start adding commentary and perhaps parody then you have a stronger case for free speech.

There is a tradition that a public figure depicted in their public role is fair game for commentary. Weirdly when you try to accurately depict someone, and perhaps give insight into who they really are/were, you might need clearance to do it.