“Avoid lawsuits beyond all things; they pervert your conscience, impair your health, and dissipate your property.”- Jean de la Bruyere
I like reading books that use authentic locations. I think they add a little zest to fiction. Familiar places can make a particular scene easy visualize and they add a touch of reality to fabricated stories.
I also like using actual locations in my own manuscripts. For instance, in The Ride when I needed a noisy backdrop, I had my characters meet at a popular restaurant. If the book wasn’t already published, I’d think about using a fictional eatery instead.
The article, “Crime novelist sued for setting plot around Paris landmark,” in the guardian.co.uk, has convinced me to resist this sort of temptation in the future and stick to totally fictional everything.
The article states:
When Lalie Walker set about using the Marché Saint Pierre as the setting for her latest crime thriller, she thought she was paying a nostalgic tribute to a much-loved Parisian landmark.
But, after reading her tale of a crazed killer who sews fear and loathing among the rolls of taffeta, the owners of the much-loved Montmartre fabric store have signalled that they do not appreciate her gesture.
Arguing that certain passages in her fictional depiction of a business rocked by threats, voodoo and staff abductions are defamatory, they are taking her to court and demanding €2m (£1.8m) in damages.
The author said she wrote the novel, Aux Malheurs des Dames, from an affectionate point of view, but the store’s director called it defamation, so the case is headed to the courtroom.
The head of the Parigramme publishing house stated that the book is clearly presented as fiction.
"At no moment does the novel imply that in everyday real life you are risking your life when buying a length of fabric," he said.
The lawyer for the same publishing house pointed out the Louvre didn’t attempt to sue Dan Brown for writing about murders taking place in the museum. I wonder if I should I add a “yet” here?
For Walker, the court case has come as a shock. "I think this is serious. It means that every time you want to write a fiction you have to ask the permission of the owners or the place," she said. "Potentially it represents a big threat to our liberty." She added, gloomily: "We will all have to end up writing science fiction instead."
Tess Gerritsen once wrote a blog about being threatened with a suit for using the actual name of an organ donantion bank in her book, Harvest. She said:
“I wrote back that the book is clearly labeled a novel, and that novels by definition were fiction. I also consulted with my publisher’s legal office, which told me to relax, that they get these sorts of letters all the time, and that since I had not said anything bad about NEOB, there really was no reason they could win a lawsuit. (But they admitted that NEOB could still choose to sue me.)”
I'm sure there are many more examples of this type of lawsuit. Have you heard of others? How do you feel about the use of real locations in fiction? Is using an actual site to tell a story worth the risk of being sued?
Thanks for stopping by.
Tags: Jean de la Bruyere , Lalie Walker, Marché Saint Pierre , Tess Garritsen,