I'm writing a story where my character meets some of the world's greatest philosophers in a dream. He meets Franz Kafka, Dostoevsky, and Friedrich Nietzsche in dreams. Kafka only speaks in quotes from his books. Nieztscche and Dostoevsky argue with eachother for several minutes.

I'm wondering now if this is illegal, if I can get sued somehow because I use them in fictional representations.

  • This is not illegal. However, if you were to write a book, any book really, that's based on a living person, like Barack Obama, then it'll be illegal. You would need Obama's explicit permission to write and profit off his name. For deceased people like philosophers, their estate may sue you. May 11 '20 at 21:34

People have done this before in fiction (Midnight in Paris, for example), so I highly doubt it's illegal. Of course, it never hurts to ask for permission if you have any idea who to ask.

I believe I read somewhere that you should be very careful about the way you portray a well-known person, but in your case, I wouldn't be too worried - Especially since it's in a dream, and most people know that dreams are not to be trusted 100% - unless, of course, you establish otherwise.

If you present them in a way that matches their legacy or people's understanding of them, I highly doubt anyone would mind.


This is common in fiction, especially with long-dead public figures. There are whole books that have been peopled largely by repurposed historical figures.

I'm not a lawyer, but as far as I know, you're only in legal jeopardy if you're depicting living or recently deceased people. Even then, it's really only if you're depicting them in a way that is defamatory and untrue.

Personally, as a reader, I tend not to like it seeing historical figures used in fiction --it breaks my suspension of disbelief. However, I think putting it in a dream setting makes it much more palatable. We all dream about well-known people from time to time, and there's no expectation that their dream versions match the real life counterpart.

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