Standard Disclaimers...


Well-Known Member
Jun 19, 2018
A standard disclaimer might read like this (from wikipedia pertaining to film): The story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this production are fictitious. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred.

One I found regarding fictional writing: This is a work of fiction. Unless otherwise indicated, all the names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents in this book are either the product of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

In the very near future series I'm working on, much of it takes place in Philadelphia, PA., U.S.. As the protagonist walks the streets, I'm extremely accurate regarding the route, in some cases the buildings (noting the number of levels and other features), and have produced detailed maps for the entire 5,400 sq.mi. city. In essence, a reader could walk the route and with some certainty say 'this happened here in the story.' On the other hand, I am presenting an alternative future in a real place. So if I get the place wrong, it looks rather silly.



For me it's fun, helps me establish an image of the area and so on to do it that way. My concern is what sort of problem might it cause me, if any at all, to mention actual streets and buildings (though I don't go so far as to note an address or give too much detail about external structures...but, internal layouts are sometimes quite accurate).

It's done, so it's not a matter of the work to do it. I'd rather not 'vague it up' if i don't have to. I'm mostly curious if a writer you heard of ran into legal issues due to such a thing?

Anyone know of any positive or negative examples of fallout from this? And yes I realize the actual answer to this needs to come from an attorney.

I have no legal training so just a thought or two...
Someone in the UK sued [and lost - I think] because their house [position and description] was used as the home of a serial killer in a book. They said it affected their property value [and was an associated libel?].
The issue would arise [if at all] if you used a real location in a way that the owners or residents of that location could object to. Do you make a named bookshop, a centre of a city wide crime gang? Or an identifiable town house the source of all the areas drugs?
I know the laws in the UK and US would be very different [but I can't remember what the difference is].
Right, it would only be a problem if you used a recognizable building in such a way that would bring disrepute on past or present owners of the property.
Yep, that would be my take on it as well. And I'm pretty sure that US laws on libel are such that it's harder for plaintiffs to prove defamation, and in some cases at least there needs to be an element of malice (ie you deliberately use someone's house as a drug den because you hate the person).

So simply mentioning a specific building, or having something happen inside it which isn't the fault of the owners/tenants, isn't likely to create a problem. Anything happening outside should also be fine.

However, over here we do get the impression that US lawyers tend to be extra-creative in looking for ways to extract money from other people... So if someone was upset by their home being the site of a Manson-type killing spree, and it was argued that this has lowered the property's market value, it's possible an action might be brought, which even if it's unsustainable might involve you in legal costs. I think that's only likely to happen, though, if the book is a runaway success. A libel is actionable even if only one person has read it; a claim for loss of value is only going to be actionable if a lot of people have read the book. Hard to know which way to jump there -- no sales and an easy life; plenty of sales and the risk of some idiot bringing a dubious claim, but also giving all that extra publicity, so more sales!
Well, I never mention anything more serious than cannibalistic mass murdering junkies orgiastically gnawing while humping and slaughtering. Past that the neighbors are all dandy...

I suppose what helps my potential case is everyone in the story that lived in any structure was pushed out and relocated years prior. My concern was the absurd chance that an owner might claim strangers were looking over their property due to it... hence they feel unsafe, blah, blah, blah.

Again, I suppose an attorney is the way to go, and their advice will be to make it a 100% fictitious place. After a long search, I couldn't find one case--set in the future--where the writer was sued. Only those from the past or present, implying the residents there now were this, that, or the other... and those cases were tossed out.

I was just curious if any of you heard of such an incident (being better in touch with 'writers news' than I).

Thanks for your input...