If you suspect someone based a fictional character on you in a book, movie, or television show, you can sue the creator for libel if the person uses that character to defame you in some way. However, one of the tenets of a libel-in-fiction case is to prove the character is, in fact, supposed to represent you. This can be challenging to do depending on how the creator presents the character in the fictional work, but here are two ways you can prove this element.
Point Out Direct Parallels
Perhaps the easiest way to prove a fictional person is based on you is to show direct parallels between you and the character. This can be anything from physical appearance to mannerisms and speech patterns. However, the similarities must be compelling enough to convince a reasonable person with knowledge of you and/or the creator of the fictional work to know the character is supposed to represent you.
For example, in the 1991 case of Bryson vs. News America Publications, Inc., the Supreme Court of Illinois found the author's use of the plaintiff's name—in addition to other mitigating factors—in a short story submitted to Seventeen magazine made it reasonable that people reading the fictional story would understand the character in the work was referring to a real person the writer knew. Part of the court's reasoning was that the plaintiff's last name was not very common.
The more connections you can make between you and the character and the more distinctive those connections are, the better chance you'll have of proving this aspect of your case.
Show Similarities in Circumstance
Many creators of fictional works make numerous changes to characters so they're not immediately recognizable as representing real people. However, the circumstances the characters find themselves in can also be an identifying mark if they're unique enough.
For instance, infidelity is a common literary theme. If the specifics of the affair match those of a real-life case (e.g. the person and his or her lover met the third Thursday of every month at a well-known motel near a specific highway), though, then a reasonable person may be lead to believe the character in question represents a living person.
There are other ways you can show a character in a fictional work is meant to represent you. Discuss the specifics of your case with a personal injury attorney who can help you pull together the right evidence to increase your chances of winning.Share