First, a basic rule If what you write about someone is favorable or even impartial, you don't have to worry about defamation or invasion of privacy. For example, without their permission, you may thank someone by name in your acknowledgements. Genuine individuals and real events may be mentioned in a non-fiction work. However, if you make statements about a person that are false, and you know them to be false, you can be sued for defamation or libel. It is also possible to be accused of defamation or libel if you print stories that imply a person is guilty of a crime when they have not been charged with one.
In addition to civil lawsuits, it is also possible for a person to seek damages because of content published about them. For example, if a celebrity finds content relating to them on another website, they could file a lawsuit claiming copyright infringement.
Finally, it's important to remember that if you publish information that places a person's life in danger, this would be considered true journalism and would be protected under the First Amendment. For example, if a politician was involved in a car crash and you wrote about it, you would be reporting on a public event so there would be no need to get their permission.
In conclusion, yes, it is illegal to write about a real person. However, only if the facts reported about them are untrue, and you know them to be untrue, could you be sued for defamation or libel.
How can authors incorporate actual individuals in their work without running the danger of being sued? Even if you don't mention them by name, if you present them as a representative of some larger group, you're not violating their rights. For example, if you describe a company as having good benefits, you're not violating their right to privacy.
However, if you make statements about an individual that are false and defamatory, they have the right to sue for libel. In order for them to win their case, they have to prove three things: first, that you wrote something harmful about them; second, that there is some basis for believing that you wrote it; third, that you did not have a good-faith belief that it was true. For example, if you write a book about Jane Smith and include statements such as "Jane has been arrested for drug trafficking," she would have the right to sue you for defamation because these are harmful statements made with no basis in fact. She could also sue you for invasion of privacy because you publicly revealed facts about her life that were private before publication. Finally, she could sue you for libel because you did not have a good faith belief that these statements were true.
Nonetheless, every fiction writer builds his or her characters on actual individuals. Memoirists and nonfiction writers use names to identify people. Second, if what you write is true, you have immunity from liability. Finally, it's important for you to obtain written permission from all persons who might object to having their lives discussed in detail in your book.
If you plan to use real people in your story, it's important to consider how they would feel about it. Would they want you to write about them? Would they want you to alter their characterizations for your own purposes? You should also check with their families or guardians if they are unaware of your plans. Only use other people's names when you have their permission or if there is no way to get permission - such as when writing historical fiction.
Names are also useful tools for distinguishing characters within a single narrative. For example, if you were to tell a story about several people who lived through an event, you could name each character specifically and still distinguish them easily once the plot thickens. This is particularly helpful in novels where there may be many characters of interest to the reader. Names can also help readers remember specific details about characters before they finish reading about them.
Even if what you write about someone is entirely factual, you must respect her privacy. In the same way that only live persons may claim for defamation, only living people can sue for invasion of privacy. If you write about a dead person, you are not violating her privacy; she cannot object.
People can sue for invasion of privacy if they can show that they have a "privacy interest" in their image. For example, if they have "a legitimate expectation of privacy" from being photographed without their consent, then they can file suit against anyone who posts these photos online without their permission. The courts have found that celebrities have a privacy interest in their images that prevents them from being used without their consent.
There are two types of invasion of privacy: intentional and unintentional. With intentional invasions, the publisher intends to violate your privacy by publishing your picture or story. With unintentional invasions, the publisher has no intention of violating your privacy but still causes you harm by revealing information about you that he or she had no right to know. For example, if a reporter interviews you for a story and uses your name in his article, this would be an intentional invasion of your privacy because he wanted to publish something about you.
Bloggers must use caution while writing about others. Defamation is one of the laws you should be aware of. Defamation occurs when you make a false remark about someone that hurts their reputation. You might be sued for libel right now! Before you publish something on your blog, you should understand how defamation laws in your state work. If you do not, you could find yourself in trouble later.
Libel is defined as a written public statement that attacks a person's character, such as statements that harm his or her reputation. Libel includes statements made about someone in social media such as tweets, Facebook posts, and blogs. Just like with face-to-face conversations, there are legal limits on what you can say about others online. In some states, simply publishing derogatory information about someone can be considered libel. For example, if you wrote about a celebrity in a negative light using only publicly available information, you could be subject to legal action from that person's representatives.
In general, you cannot libel people who are dead. However, if you print words that were used by a deceased person, they can be considered true memories and therefore not defamatory. The same thing applies to people who were children at the time of the blog post - if you print words that were used by their parents, you do not know how they would feel about it today.