Q – Can You Claim to Have “Channeled” Deceased Celebrities in Your Book?

Q – Can You Claim to Have “Channeled” Deceased Celebrities in Your Book?

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:

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4 Responses to "Q – Can You Claim to Have “Channeled” Deceased Celebrities in Your Book?"

  1. Terry Arnold  October 8, 2020 at 12:35 pm

    Dear Ask the Expert

    A person asked me to review his self-copyrighted 30-page synopsis of a book he wanted to publish and wanted me make it book form. I agreed and offered to develop the first three chapters to see how he liked my approach and style. He disagreed on my approach. We said our goodbyes and that was it.
    I recently retrieved my copy of the synopsis and first chapters I produced and decided I wanted to continue to make it into book. I have tried to contact the originator by letter and email with an offer to purchase his rights. I received no response to numerous received tries.
    I have developed the text to more than 12,000 words and 35 pages so far with new and significant changes to the original synopsis. I plan to have at least 50,000+ words upon completion.
    Can I proceed with the book’s completion without fear of copyright infringement?
    Terry A.

    • By Angela Hoy - Publisher of WritersWeekly.com  October 8, 2020 at 1:58 pm

      I’m not an attorney so I can’t give you legal advice. You should consult with an attorney. That said… The originator owns the rights to his story. If you publish that book, I believe you’ll have a hot legal mess on your hands.


  2. p  October 7, 2020 at 2:19 pm

    Great advice and very diplomatic.

    • By Angela Hoy - Publisher of WritersWeekly.com  October 8, 2020 at 2:02 pm

      Yeah, it was difficult to be diplomatic on that one…. 😉