You are here:

Writing Books/Real Settings


My question is relatively simple, but it is one for which I cannot find an answer. Does an author have to get permission to use a real place for a setting? For ex: If the author uses Yale University in his or her novel for a setting, does that author have to get permission from Yale?

Thank you.


Dear David,

Not being a lawyer, I can't offer a legal perspective to your question. All I can offer is my understanding. Beyond that, you would probably need a lawyer.

I see no reason whatsoever that you cannot use a real place in a work of fiction. Obviously, if you wanted to film a movie on, say, the Yale campus, you would need Yale's permission. But to set your book of fiction at Yale would, it seems to me, present no problem whatsoever.

I have never heard of a college being so upset at its portrayal in a work of fiction that they initiated legal proceedings. A recognizable business might be more sensitive on that score. But, still, I don't know that they would have any legal grounds to complain.

However, if you are going to describe the place (Yale, for instance) in such a way that discredits the institution, you might want to check everyone's legal rights with a lawyer. Otherwise, I'd just say to go for it (recognizing that I'm not offering you legal advice, nor could I.)

Good luck with your book.

Mark David
author, The MoonQuest

Writing Books

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Mark David Gerson


Happy to answer questions about writing, writer's block, publishing/self-publishing. Can answer general questions, but not available to critique work.


Published author; have taught writing for 15 years at colleges, universities and community centers in the U.S. and Canada.

Southwest Writers New Mexico Book Co-op

Author of the fantasy adventure, The MoonQuest, and the book of writing inspiration and practice, The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write. Freelanced full-time as a writer, journalist and editor for more than a decade. Published in a wide range of publications. Free inspirational e-newsletter has 1200 subscribers in more than a dozen countries.

Published Author. Published Freelance Writer. More than 15 years of teaching/coaching/consulting.

Awards and Honors
New Mexico Discovery Award 2006; Award-Winning Finalist in Visionary Fiction, the National Best Books 2007 Awards

©2016 All rights reserved.