I am not an attorney and this is not legal advice. Consult with an attorney for your specific situation.
I received an email from a woman who claims to have written a book about her channeled conversations with deceased celebrities. Whether you believe in channeling (a two-way conversation between the living and the dead) or not is irrelevant. What bothered me was the fact that the author used celebrities instead of regular folks, which may indicate a belief that, by doing so, she might make more money on her book. Hmmm….
Imagine being a family member of one of the people “channeled” in the book. If it were me, I’d be livid that someone was trying to make a buck using my family member’s name…whether he or she was a celebrity or not.
Second only to the ethical issue is the legal one. I first asked the author if she’d obtained permission from the celebrities’ heirs before writing her book. Her response was very long but, in essence, she said no. She went on to say that she hadn’t written anything negative. That doesn’t matter.
It was very difficult for me to be polite in my response but I believe I was successful in doing so.
Here’s what I wrote:
The names of many dead celebrities are trademarked. You can’t use their trademarked names for commercial gain without obtaining permission from the current owners of the trademark.
This article will be helpful:
We will not be publishing your book.
- “I wrote a fiction series about dead celebrities. I can’t get sued, right?”
- Getting a Celebrity Interview or (Pardon Me, But I Believe You Dropped This Name) By David William Cabrera
- PUBLIC FIGURES AND LIBEL: “I want to write a tell-all book about a celebrity I once knew. Can a public figure sue me?”
- Can I Quote This Celebrity?
- Should I Contribute To This Celebrity’s Book?
- “My novel features real politicians. Since they’re public figures, I can’t be sued, right?” YES, YOU CAN GET SUED!
- Don’t Invite Lawsuits by Real People Featured in Your Book! (Hint: You Can Still Be Sued Even If You Don’t Name Them!)
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