The Legal Eagle
Do you know the laws associated with writing? All writers have to work within the laws, but what are those laws and how do we stay within them?
The Oxfordshire English dictionary defines Libel as: 'a published false statement that is damaging to a person's reputation.'
Libel can happen even if you don't intend it to upset anyone. Libel is always written, whereas slander is spoken defamation. It will take three people for Libel to occur; a writer, a person whose reputation is damaged and a reader. It applies to anything written, on page or screen. If you're writing fiction and you describe a real person but give them a fake name, and that person is identifiable, you could be in danger of libel. Be careful. It's wise to observe traits and characteristics but to mix them up so that you're not putting a 'real person' in your work of fiction, even if you claim otherwise. The dead are safe because they can't put in a claim against you, but if your writing affects a living relative, you're still at risk.
Copyright exists to protect writers and includes designs, patents acts and the written word. Whenever you put pen to paper or words to a screen, copyright is established. It's your own intellectual property. When the written word is soled to a publisher or publication, the author is granting the publisher the right to produce that text in book format, or newspaper article. Only the copyright holder can decide how the text can be used. As most works are produced on a screen now, it is easy to establish the owner and date of creation.
Plagiarism is when one writer uses the words of another and passes them off as theirs. Always write your own research and be careful to use your own words. It is easy to accidentally be guilty of plagiarism these days, with PC work and copy and paste facilities.
If, after careful consideration, you find yourself in hot water, seek advice from writers unions and citizen advice. On that note, get writing. Don't let the above stop your creative flow. Whilst it's private between you and your page/screen, you can be as free as you like!