For my current work in progress I’ve chosen a real life event as background: The Eurovision Song Contest. I’ve attended one of those contests in 2013 and decided to pick that particular event as setting. 

Image credit: TVLine

The question for me was whether to use the actual people and celebrities who were present and performed in the show as characters in my novel or not.

If you watch shows and programmes like “South Park”, “Ab Fab” and “Tracey Ullman” they all use known celebrities and poke fun at them. It seemed silly to make up countries and singers when using the real ones gives a much more realistic flavour and the opportunity for insider jokes.

So I’ve started contacting agents and managers of said people to ask formally for permission. Not that I thought they could refuse me, after all I’m offering a very benign portrayal of said celebrities, nothing like the kind of thing they are used to from some publicly screened comedy programmes.

Sadly I was refused permission by the people I’ve asked so far, which was surprising but of course is fair enough. I won’t to do this against their will and have to come up with alternative solutions. I’m just wondering how the TV shows get away with it, who I doubt have permission for some of the more outrageous and often even insulting programmes.

Use of celebrities in fiction and non-fiction is a wide field:
There are plenty of authorised and un-authorised biographies out there, papparazzi sell and publish photos of celebrities left right and centre against their will and many comedy shows imitate celebrities – so this refusal makes little sense.

I understand that using a celebrity is taking advantage of their status to sell my books.

Celebrities are brands, so they want to keep control over it.

I naturally respect the decision and see their point but it naggs me a little that TV Shows and newspapers get away with so much and Inot even with this little.
Shouldn’t libel, slander and defamation of character be the red line?

I’m not going to risk a law suit and instead take on the challange to change my stories to fit the legal framework. It might even be a blessing in disguise!

Back to Europe!

Here’s some further reading on the issue:

http://www.betternovelproject.com/blog/real-people/

https://litreactor.com/discuss/question-about-using-real-people-celebrities-in-a-work-of-fiction-and-any-legal

http://litreactor.com/columns/keeping-it-real-a-rough-guide-to-using-real-people-as-fictional-characters

http://jadevarden.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/writing-101-can-you-use-celebrity-names.html

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