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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

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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

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