I just finished a series of novels about celebrities who are now deceased. All of the scenes and dialogue are fiction and they can’t sue me because I read that dead people can’t sue. Are you interested in publishing this series for me?
I’m not an attorney and this is not legal advice. It is simply my opinion.
When someone spends weeks, months, or years writing something before researching the legal issues that might be involved, that can lead to extreme disappointment.
If you want to go bankrupt from legal fees then, by all means, write about celebrities, and try to profit from their names. If you don’t, however, I strongly suggest contacting an attorney.
Celebrities’ names and likenesses are usually trademarked and, after death, the rights are owned by their estates. And, if somebody is making money from that name, the estate is going to want in on the action. While some estates won’t bother filing lawsuits, many will. One such famous case is highlighted HERE.
Before embarking on a long writing project that will profit from the famous names of others, please consult with an attorney who specializes in such matters because the laws vary by state. You will end up saving yourself a lot to writing time, and you just might keep yourself out of the poor house in the process.
Of course, you can always contact the estate’s attorney to ask permission first but, if you’re an unknown author, your request will probably be ignored.
Angela Hoy lives on a mountain in North Georgia. She is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, the President and CEO of BookLocker.com and AbuzzPress, and the author of 24 books.
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By all means, contact the estate’s attorney to ask permission. Of course, it depends upon who it was in life – if he was a very famous celebrity, the answer may be an easy ‘yes’ or it could be a thunderous, ‘no’.
That doesn’t mean you can’t ask.
And don’t assume that an estate will automatically turn you down because you have no credentials. If they are the least bit curious, they will want to see the manuscript for many reasons — what slant is being put on their heir, is one.