So, I just discovered a person I knew in college has written a book. This book is titled as fiction. But after buying and reading this book, I am in this book. No name change. The place where I work, with geographical references to where this job is located. Along with friends, and a terrible experience in which happened, and was in newspapers, but not something I would ever want written about. Nor am I happy that I am in this book. My parents are in this book. What are my legal rights? It's a self published book. and I don't think it will ever be a best seller. but I definitely feel violated, and exposed. and I feel like my permission should have been used. But I was never contacted about this. Can I file a cease and desist?

  • 1
    Ask a Swedish lawyer. Or ask in a Swedish law forum.
    – user5645
    Commented Jan 4, 2015 at 9:08
  • 3
    If it's a self-published book, and it's not selling particularly well, then taking action against it could have the unwanted side effect of giving it a lot of extra publicity. Depending on what the original incident is, the whole mess could all hit the papers again, just because of your lawsuit. People who never heard of the original case might flock to buy copies, just on the premise of learning the "inside scoop." Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 16:28
  • @what - Why Swedish? Is that a reference to another case? Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 16:31
  • Somehow the lyrics to "You're So Vain" popped in my head. "You're so vain - You probably think this book is about you" Except that it is true. Commented Sep 29, 2015 at 12:59
  • Did you try talking to that person?
    – user31677
    Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 1:53

3 Answers 3


"It was in newspapers."

If the circumstances applicable to you were printed as "News" AND these newpapers complied with my professional association's Code of Ethics then whatever the author writes and publishes IS actionable as libel, but save your $, you won't win. It probably won't even get on the docket.

Being a "work of fiction" is irrelevant in this case, there are countless fictional works that reference real people and events.

I mention the SPJ Ethical Code and whether or not the newspapers in question adequately reported the initial and any follow ups on whatever "It" was. Clearly "It" is something you'd prefer everyone forget.

In the rare case that ALL of these newspapers are scandal sheets that have no ethics or professional reporting standards, you could sue for libel and have a chance.

More likely they did report the story correctly. In which case the same facts from the newspapers' original stories are being re-hashed by the author. This is protected speech under the 1st ammendment.

You did not sue then, because everything was true? Sounds like what you'd rather not get re-hashed is verifiable truth, which can't be sued for libel, (not in the US).

As for your parents, yourself and your current employer, all of you have rights. The main thing the author MAY violate is your privacy. From your Question An interested party could find you because the author gives your real name and location of your current employer.

If this is relevant information to "It" and the information hasn't changed, there's nothing to be accomplished for you legally. Even if you have a new employer and lose your job after the author goes to press, you won't be able to make a case for libel because "It" was already publicly-available information they could've located about you easily.

If your current employer experiences some sort of loss of income due to the new publication, THEY CAN sue for libel, but their case would be only marginally more actionable under libel than yours would. Some companies are happy to sue and lose just for the sake of causing anguish and extracting legal costs from the publisher.

If your parents were involved in the initial story, same "n/a" applies.

However, if they were NOT mentioned and later your privacy is violated, or theirs is, you CAN SUE for violation of privacy, especially if readers DO in fact connect your name, place of work, then follow you home or find out where your parents live and harm you or them in any way.

In 1965 The US Supreme Court Ruled that all US Citizens have a Right to privacy.

You still need to file a civil tort action and prove DAMAGE (which can be financial, physical or emotional) to a jury. The opposition would argue you knowingly gave up this right by NOT taking legal action in the past against "the newspapers" that reported "It." initially.

You'd be the one Taking the Action, so the burden of proof lies with YOU. Unless there is significant fallout after publication harming you, your employer or your family following publication of this. It won't be worth your while to take action, you'll most likely rack up huge legal fees and still lose.

You can take a litmus test of "the newspapers" in question by comparing their handling of "It" with citation 1. Mainly, did these newspapers, in general, "seek the truth an report it"? If a source said something bad about you to a newspaper, did that paper give you adequate opportunity to respond to allegations or anything that could LATER become actionable? Likely they did, it's pretty much "Running a newspaper and not getting sued 101." You can read the Court's ruling and opinion re: Griswold v. Connecticut in citation 2 to better understand your right to privacy. On a positive note, don't forget you ALSO have freedom of speech, which reflexively is limited by the author's right to privacy.


I'm not a lawyer, so the views expressed here are those of a layman, and writer.

Your situation appears to resemble the one in "The Red Hat Club" litigation, which the plaintiff won.

This does not appear to be a situation where the author created a "generic" character that somewhat resembles you: female, college-educated, from a certain geography, etc. It seems more like a real character that is being used "fictitiously." If so, the author is treading on thin ice.

One of the tests I use is, are there 100, or better yet, 1000 people who could be the inspiration for the fictitious character? Or is she described so exactly that there could only be one person (or a handful of people) in the world who fit the description? The latter appears to be the case.

Only a lawyer can tell you what your rights and remedies are, but as a potential juror (i.e. finder of fact), my sense is that certain lines have been crossed. That is to say that the book is really (and unfortunately) "about you" and not just a "take-off" on a small part of you.


Get a lawyer.

Maybe you have a case and can sue.

Maybe you don't have a case, but can still threat legal actions. Maybe the other side will surrender because they don't want to invest the money and effort into a proper defense.

An experienced lawyer will tell you what they think and advise you on what course of action to take.

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