So for the novel I'm writing, the main character is a college student living in Michigan. Is it okay for me to have her go to a college that really is in Michigan? I wouldn't be displaying it in a bad light, or anything like that, I'd just be using information from their website (such as the campus layouts, what academic programs they have, etc.). Is that okay, or do I need to make something up instead?


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I doubt you'd have any trouble. Here's an explanation from an attorney. The bulk of it equally applies to organisations.


When in doubt you can do what the beat poets did and change names and places, or even make a collage of different ones, but they were generally fictionalising real events. "And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks" being the most notable example of why they often did that - more to escape criminal proceedings than civil ones.

From the point of view of writing it, it helps to have some RL experience of the place, but then Bram Stoker famously never visited eastern Europe and he didn't even have the benefit of the internet. Social media could help you get a sense of it as well.

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    In addition, there has to be a proven harm that comes to the entity in question with a direct link to your story. For instance, if your MC commits suicide in Ann Arbor, stuff happens--but then if you go on a rant about how the school failed your protagonist because of X,Y,Z--and X,Y,Z turns out not to be true, then UM might have an issue and a case.
    – Stu W
    Apr 9, 2016 at 4:24

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