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Writing Books/Copyright/libel referring to real places in fiction novels?


Congrats on your writing awards.
Here's my query.
I researched the name of actual small companies (Mom & Pop type companies, etc.) throughout my novel. For example, a shop providing ocean diving advetnures off Hawaii I tentatively plan to list that company's actual name. Is this a bad idea in terms of legal issues? Does it expose me to potential lawsuits of libel, even if I place the company in a neutral-to-good light? Is it necessary to worry about this and as a practice scramble / change the company names to fictitious ones instead?
Thank you,


Defamation law, including libel, is nothing to take lightly, but neither is it something to lose sleep over.  Portraying any person, place, or thing in a positive light - or even a neutral one - will almost certainly not bring the wrath of law down on you.  Generally speaking, in order for you to be sued, you would have to say something negative that is not true.  (If you want to say something negative, and can prove that it's true, you also don't have any cause for worry.)  Further, it would probably have to be shown that (a) you said this with the intent of causing harm, while knowing it was false, and (b) that actual damages were suffered by the 3rd party.

A lot depends on just how much you plan to utilize this company in the book.  For example, if your reference to the diving adventure company in Hawaii will be mentioned only briefly, as a place, perhaps, where your protagonist goes to plan his island getaway, you don't have any worries.  However, if you're planning on making it a more prominent fixture in your book, that's another matter.  In that sort of situation, I'd strongly recommend fictionalizing your company.  

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Vincent M. Wales


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.


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

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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