How can a work of fiction possibly defame someone?

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Defamation can result from a work of fiction. If a character in a work of fiction so closely resembles an actual person that reasonable readers believe that it refers to the plaintiff, sometimes the plaintiff can recover for defamation (assuming the other elements of a defamation claim are met). In 2003, a New York trial court explained in Carter-Clark v. Random House, Inc.: “For a fictional character to constitute actionable defamation, the description of the fictional character must be so closely akin to the real person claiming to be defamed that a reader of the book, knowing the real person, would have no difficulty linking the two. Superficial similarities are insufficient.”