An example is "Miley Cyrus transformation - a marketing approach"

I wont use their stuff inside.

No copyrighted material, for example, pictures

So for my previous example, i would write how miley started as innocent, then to appeal to an other crowd, she appears extremely sexual.

So for my previous example, could i be sued be her/her PR/ her label?

EDIT: I live in Europe

  • 1
    Is this a biography of Miley Cyrus's rise to popularity from a marketing perspective, or a marketing primer using Cyrus as an example? Those are two very different things and would fall under different sets of rules. Aug 19, 2014 at 21:33
  • Hmmm, very nice observation! But for the sake of this legal question, lets take the hard road and consider that it is "a biography of Miley Cyrus's rise to popularity from a marketing perspective". Aug 19, 2014 at 21:44

4 Answers 4


In the U.S., anyone can sue anyone. That doesn't mean they win, and you can counter-sue for your damages incurred defending against a baseless lawsuit. Plus, of course, most celebs wouldn't want to be seen as bullies.

Stick to the facts and you will be fine. However, start injecting your opinions in there, and you could get into trouble. This is especially so, if your opinions are disparaging.

For example, you must NOT say anything like "Miley started out pure, but now she's a BLEEP." That would be lawsuit-bait. Give evidence-based statements only, for example: time plots of the surface area of her costumes, statements she has made to the media (then vs. now), average age of her fans, etc.


  • Also, "... to appeal to another crowd ..." attributes motive. That seems very dangerous to me (also not a lawyer). Aug 19, 2014 at 20:46
  • 1
    "Time plots of the surface area of her costumes." Now that would be an entertaining chart to design. Aug 19, 2014 at 23:08

(I am not a lawyer.)

If you are writing an unauthorized biography of a celebrity, I imagine that falls under journalism and libel rules. So as long as you could cite every source you used, and you did not write anything which is demonstrably false, you would probably be okay.

You are describing what's basically an extended case study or an academic thesis. If the point of the biography is to show not this person's life from birth to some arbitrary point but to demonstrate how the artist's popularity was manipulated, strategized, packaged, and distributed, then it's really more of an industry how-to.

Your line of concern is fact and evidence. Whatever events you present as fact must have evidence to back them up: a newspaper article, an interview, a TV program, a photograph. Whatever you don't have evidence for is either conjecture (which you must label as such, and that still might not get you out of trouble) or your opinion/analysis.

A lawsuit would have grounds if you wrote something false or defamatory and proclaimed it as fact.

  • Reporting on the facts of her twerking performance at the MTV Awards is not false (as long as you describe what actually happened and can back it up with a source). If you want to discuss and analyze why she performed that way, you are presenting that as your opinion (which I believe is not defamation or libel).
  • If you are theorizing "she performed this provocative move to increase brand awareness, and a poll taken the next week showed that 27% more American adults aged 35–50 could identify her from a photo than two weeks before the show," that's analysis based on fact. It may or may not be the reason she performed that way, but if you have the polls in question, you can make the argument.
  • But if you say "she performed provocatively because she's strung out on various recreational pharmaceuticals" or "she performed provocatively in order to piss off her conservative parents and corporate overlords," and you have no hard evidence to back that up, that's libel, and grounds for a lawsuit.

If you're going to argue that Cyrus deliberately changed and sexualized her image in order to appeal to a new audience beyond her Hannah Montana origins, then you will have to lay out that case with a lot of facts and figures.

You can show her Q scores at different points in her career, and try to demonstrate correlation with the change in her image. You can cite polls, album sales, concert receipts, and merchandizing information. You can publish excerpts from interviews and track increases in her followers on social media.

What you can't do is speculate on Cyrus's thoughts or choices and proclaim your analysis to be truth.

  • 2
    Better than ""she performed this provocative move to increase brand awareness, and a poll taken the next week showed that 27% more American adults aged 35–50 could identify her from a photo than two weeks before the show," would be a statement like, "This provocative moved increased brand awareness, and a poll taken next week showed..." Now you're juxtaposing this "provocative move" and next week's polls without alleging motivation or cause and effect.
    – Tom Au
    May 31, 2017 at 1:26
  • @TomAu Well, the statement "This provocative move increased brand awareness" is precisely alleging cause and effect. And yes, your wording is more a statement of what happened than mine. In that bullet, I'm presenting my statement out of the context of a larger piece, and using it to describe a theory or argument which the writer might allege. The OP would have to have found interviews with Cyrus to back up that theory if s/he wanted to present it. May 31, 2017 at 9:36
  • OK, my version could allege cause and effect, but strips it of motivation. If I say "Lady X had a 'wardrobe malfunction' on such and such a date, and her internet hits went up the week after," I am juxtaposing two facts, but refraining from saying that the wardrobe malfunction was deliberate. (it could have been a genuine accident). Also, both Miley Cyprus and the other lady are public figures, so anything that is done to remove the implication of malice or "reckless disregard" is helpful for the defense.
    – Tom Au
    May 31, 2017 at 10:01

FYI, I am not lawyer and I don’t know the background behind the book which I am about to show you.

I just want to let you know, that something similar was already done. Take look at book Inside Steve's brain by Leander Kahney. it is mixture of Apple history and author's opinions about why Apple was so popular, with added business how-to (How to make another Apple like company).


The first thing you need to know is that U.S. libel law is much more favorable to defendants than the laws of many European countries, particularly Britain. That is to say that a suit that would likely lose in the U.S. might well prevail in Britain. And the rich and powerful might go "forum shopping" to get a favorable British judgment. Americans are protected by Rachel's law, which hinders a U.S. court from enforcing an British judgment (unless the American goes to Britain). Most European countries would not give you such protection, and in any event, it's probably easier to collect a British judgment in Europe than in the U.S.

The rest of what I have to say refers mainly to U.S. law. I am an American and not a lawyer. I am writing as a writer and prospective juror (trier of fact).

The first thing about U.S. libel law is that the burden of proof is on the plaintiff. In Britain, the burden of proof is on the defendant. That's why defendants tend to win in the U.S. and lose in Britain. As a juror, I would give you the benefit of the doubt. Many, perhaps most, would.

The second thing is that truth is an absolute defense against libel (although "publication of private facts," such as someone's social security number, is a separate offense). So dmm's advice about "sticking to the facts" is a good one. One way to do this is to juxtapose different outfits on a time line, coupled with her ratings on different dates, both of which are facts. What you want to avoid are speculations about motivations, etc. "Miley did X because of Y." Instead, you want to let readers draw there own conclusions. (Note that you could probably get into trouble in Britain for juxtaposing "inconvenient" facts about someone even if they are individually true.) In doing the above, you will want to consult a lawyer, or at least a language expert, such as an editor or English teacher.

It is a very important fact that Miley Cyprus is a public figure, because U.S. "case law" (precedent) makes it very hard for public figures to win libel suits. Basically, it is not enough for the public figure to show that a defendant's statements were false, but were made with either "malice" or a "reckless disregard" for the truth. As a juror, I would find that your consulting a lawyer, or language expert mitigates against a "reckless disregard" charge. Such a person would help make your statement "legally accurate," to use a phrase coined by an American President.

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