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Is It OK to Write a Book About Someone Without Their Permission? Find Out Now


Today we are going to talk about something that is one of the most important questions any writer can ask and the answer to that is also not very simple.

This is because today we are going to talk about the ins and outs and the legalities of writing about someone.

We are going to ask the question of whether it is alright to write about someone without their permission. Can you do it without getting into legal trouble?

The answer to this is complicated.

The answer to this simple question is going to help a lot of writers write about their idols and the people they look up to and that is why is important to answer this question.

The answer to this might be complicated but if you think about it from a single standpoint then the answer looks very simple and you can very easily determine whether you can write about someone without getting in trouble.

We are just about to do that so that you might understand how laws work and how you can stay out of trouble and also write a bestseller about someone you love and respect.

Let’s first understand when and what you can’t write about someone when you are considering writing an entire book about them.

This Is When and How You Can’t Write a Book About Someone

Sensitive Information

One of the cases where you should never write a book about someone is when you plan on disclosing sensitive information about that person.

This means if you plan on writing a book and you want to reveal their address or even their contact information or their banking information then that is completely illegal.

If you do this then you are not only risking defamation laws but you are also risking so many other laws under the IPC.

We are especially looking at all these Sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and some of them are specifically for the protection of women.

– Section 354D – Stalking

– Section 66E of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000 – Violation of Privacy

– Section 72 of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000 – Breach of Confidentiality and Privacy

– Section 499 and 500 – Defamation

– Section 509 – Word, Gesture or Act Intended to Insult the Modesty of a Woman

Misinformation and Misleading Content

Misinformation and misleading content are different from defamation. You can still stand a fighting chance in the courts when it comes to defamation.

This is because defamation does not mean you can’t write about someone. There are thousands of examples of authors writing negatively about someone and you can still get away with it because there are laws that protect criticism.

However, this point is different because if you do this and spread misinformation and misleading reckless content about someone with the intention of harm then you cannot write about that.

If you do write about that then you stand the chance of getting into deep legal trouble and that is especially the case if you decide to write about someone who has the means to pursue the authorities.

In fact, you should not do it because no court of law in India or outside is going to support this simply because you are trying to spread misinformation.


One of the instances where you simply cannot write about someone just comes down to your intention because if your intention is the defamation of their character then you cannot write about someone.

This simply means if your actual intention is to harm the reputation of someone and to expose something about someone then you might get into legal trouble for writing about them.

We are simply talking about books that are about character assassination and their entire intention is to hurt the reputation of someone.

However, should that stop you? If this was the case then we would not even have some of the finest books in the history of mankind.

So, you can of course write about someone and expose them if they are a bad person but your book must have a lot of substance and information and you must also be ready for defamation charges from their legal team.

We are specifically looking at two IPC sections.

– Section 499

This is a section that defines what is defamation and the definition is quite simple and it is just something that can ruin the reputation of a person.

– Section 500

This section applies to the punishment that can be given to any individual for charges of defamation which includes a fine or jail time or even both.

Out of all these scenarios, the point about defamation might be the most confusing. So let us talk more about defamation so that you might understand what it actually means.

What Is Considered Defamation?

It is considered a defamation of character based on your intention because if your intention is purely to hurt the reputation of that person then that opens the grounds for defamation, without public interest considerations.

However, if you plan on referencing a person in your novel and that is actually a real person then you do not need to worry about it especially if there is nothing negative about that person.

For example, if you plan on writing your autobiography and you plan on talking about your brother in that autobiography then that will not be considered as defamation in a court of law.

Here are a few instances when it is not defamation and a defamation case will not stick.

If It Is a Historical Figure

If you write honestly about someone as a biography and that person happens to be a historical figure then it will not be considered as defamation.

However, there might still be grounds for defamation or hurting the religious sentiments of someone if that person is a religious figure so you should keep that in mind.

It Is All Honest Statements

If you plan to write about someone and that someone happens to be a celebrity and the information that you supplied in the book is also real and readily available then you do not stand the chance of risking defamation.

However, you must always keep in mind that there is still the possibility of defamation but if your intention is not malicious then you do not need to worry about anything.

If it is a Private Conversation

You stand the chance of risking defamation if you decide to include a lot of privileged and private communication such as text messages in your book.

This is only the case if that conversation is not in the public interest because if that conversation relates to something wrong in society and some kind of crime or corruption and you are trying to expose it then you are going to be safe in the courts.

However, if you only reveal private conversations just for any other reason other than public interest then you stand the chance of defamation.

There are a lot of other instances out there and you should only consult a qualified legal professional before you go on to write a book that stands the risk of defamation.

So, how do you make sure that you can write about someone and also keep it legal and avoid things like defamation laws and other laws?

Let’s find out.

This Is How You Can Write About Someone Legally

Ask For Permission

The best thing you can do to write about someone and keep everything legal and also prevent defamation is simply to ask their permission.

You just have to approach them or their team and present them with the idea that you want to write a book about them. You can also specify everything that the book is going to contain.

If you are confident about your book then you can even send them the completed manuscript and then ask for their permission in writing.

If they agree to it then you are completely immune to any prosecution and it will be a completely legal way of doing it.

Avoid Using Real Names

If you are an author and you plan on writing a novel then your novel might contain different characters and some of these characters might be based on real people or inspired by real people.

The only proper way to do it legally and also the most popular way of avoiding any legal trouble is to simply change the names of those people as well as other identifiers about them.

This is one of the best ways to avoid any prosecution or legal troubles or even defamation and it is to avoid using the real names and identities of people by giving them fake names.

If you want to be absolutely sure that your work is legally protected then you should totally avoid any resemblances to the real names of the actual persons.

For example, if you want to create a character inspired by someone named John Brown and you decide to change the name to Jim Baker, then there is a resemblance of the first characters and name initials.

However, if you want to be absolutely safe from legal trouble then you can change the name from John Brown to Mark Spears in your book, thus guaranteeing no resemblance whatsoever, not even of initials.

Use Public Domain Information

If you want to write a book about someone and you do not have their permission then one of the ways in which you can avoid trouble is to simply use public information in the book.

This means if you want to write a book about a public figure and if you only use information that is already out there in the public then they can’t accuse you of defamation.

You can also quote them with attribution on things they said and you can also use transcripts from their interviews in order to be absolutely safe from legal trouble.

Apart from that, you must make sure that this information is positive and it will guarantee your safety when it comes to your books.

This information can be taken from government sources and this information can also be taken from media with the correct attributions.

If there is information out there that is public knowledge then it reduces the risk of you getting a case of defamation against you.

Hire A Lawyer or Legal Team

If you do not want to take any chances when it comes to your book about someone then the best kind of approach would simply be to hire a lawyer or a legal team.

You should make them go through the manuscript so that they can help you make the necessary changes so that you are legally safe.

Things can get even more complicated when book translations are involved and that is when you will truly appreciate the advice of your legal team.

However, you must only hire the services of a lawyer who specialises in things like Right To Publicity laws as well as defamation laws and libel laws.

But you must also understand that getting yourself a lawyer is not a complete guarantee of being immune to any kind of defamation case.

This is because the lawyer can only predict things for you but they can’t stop someone from filing a case of defamation against you.

They can of course fight it for you.

And if you still feel like you need expert advice when it comes to writing a book about someone then we are here for you.

This is because we are Orange Publishers and we are a legacy publishing company and we know all the ins and outs of book writing including writing a book about someone.

We will help you go through all the checklists to ensure that your book is lawful and you are legally immune from any kind of prosecution.

We will help you understand whether your manuscript can bring a defamation case on you or whether it is safe.

Along with that, we will also help you with the entire publishing process from the book cover design to the printing as well as publishing and even the copyright and much more.

We even take care of the book promotions and run promotional campaigns for our authors and even help our authors with author branding.

The best part about our publishing company is that all our operations at in-house and this means everything we do, we do it in our facilities.

We welcome you to come and publish your next book with us and we would love to help you create a bestseller.