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I propose to utilize my own illustrations in a short story and a short novel in the planning stage (fictional works. These stories feature a character based on a person living in this vicinity. I have done paintings and taken photographs of this person in the past. The paintings are quite realistic and I can execute artwork that would identify this person from these published drawings and/or paintings.

I do not intend to use photos of this person, but only my own original artwork. I have no legal releases from this person for the use of any artwork I may use showing her image. All verbal references to her have been changed and fictionalized. The question is: if she recognizes herself in the publication, can she sue based on that recognition factor?

Legally, it may not be relevant, but the images and story line to be used are highly complimentary to this person. In addition, the images to be used in these two projected works refer back in time ten years from today. However, the changes in her physical appearance from that time to the present are not that great. It is unlikely I can obtain any releases from this person regarding the use of her images in my published works.

I have tried to get this questioned answered in the past but I am not acquainted with any professional writers. Your opinion would be much appreciated.

Thank you for your opinion Mr. Wales-it is important to me.

Robert N. Kerr

Answer
The short answer is yes, if she recognizes herself, you're in shaky territory.  She may not agree that your story is complimentary to her.  At the very least, if there is an image that she realizes is her (whether photograph or painting), you are open to being sued for using her likeness without her permission.

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Vincent M. Wales

Expertise

I am a speculative fiction novelist (fantasy, science fiction, and so on). While I may be able to answer questions on non-fiction, my specialty is fiction. Please keep that in mind when asking questions.

Experience

For four years, I taught a series of fiction writing classes in Sacramento, CA.

Education/Credentials
BA in fiction writing.

Awards and Honors
My 2004 novel, ONE NATION UNDER GOD, won BEST FICTION in Fresh Voices 2006, BEST FICTION and BEST YA FICTION in the NCPA Book Awards, and placed as a finalist in BEST BOOKS 2005. In 2002, my novel WISH YOU WERE HERE won awards for Best Fantasy and Best Fiction/Drama in the 8th Annual SPA Awards. My latest work is a trilogy titled THE MANY DEATHS OF DYNAMISTRESS (a superhero memoir). The first book, RECKONING, was released in 2013 and won the SF category in the 2014 San Francisco Book Festival, took second place in the 2013 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards for the SF/Fantasy/Paranormal category, second place in the SF category of the 2013 Reader Views Reviewers Choice Awards, and was finalist in Foreword's 2013 Book of the Year Awards, Fantasy category. The second book, REDEMPTION, will be released in early 2015 and the final book, RENAISSANCE, is scheduled for release in late 2016.

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