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Harold Bush <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 8 Jun 2009 09:05:45 -0500
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A set of general questions for my learned colleagues:

suppose someone writes a story about MT, or Hemingway, or other figures
surrounding Hemingway, and fictionalizes those events....

one colleague tells me that how one would use  historical characters might
present some serious legal problems. I am uncertain if this is true about,
say, MT, or Hemingway, both of whom have often turned up in fiction and
film, but if there have been legal challenges on the MT or EH front, please
tell me about them.  Especially defamation type litigation.

I am primarily thinking of Ezra Pound here. Pound's family is alive and very
active in challenging critical representations of him. Mary de Rachewitz
(daughter of Pound and Rudge) and her heirs are forceful people (I have
heard). The Pound Estate is not so litigious as Stephen Joyce, who has
basically halted Joyce scholarship single-handedly. But Pound critics tend
to be cautious, even in matters of fact. His "image" and writings will not
be public domain for another twenty years or so, so I'm told; and any
responsible publisher would have to vet a novel or story with the Pound
Estate, before publishing (again, so I'm told).

Are public images part of an estate???  Can an author be sued for presenting
a fictionalized version of an historical character that is ahistorical, or
mythical, or simply imagined??

I guess I'm also thinking of all the recent hit films as well along these
lines,:  The Hours, Capote, Ray, Walk the Line, etc., etc.  Or Dan Brown's
feverish imagination about the Vatican:  can they sue for defamation?

Hal B.

Harold K. Bush, Ph.D.
Saint Louis University