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Could it be a case for libel if a fictional story has reference to the following…

  1. Places and countries (and some details, like description of locations, which may not be accurate)
  2. Reference to law enforcement/military organisation (and some details about their organisational structure which may not be accurate, but are not necessarily depicting them in bad light)
  3. Not naming any specific company or brand name, but rather depicting an entire industry in bad light (For eg: making claims that the insurance industry is in general prone to misrepresentation of facts while pitching their products)
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Presumably you mean "and make untrue accusations of wrong-doing". In the US, defamation involves statements about a legal person, and a place, government or government body, or industry is not a legal personal (a specific business can be, however). In the course of "defaming" a city, you might end up defaming a supposedly fictitious individual who bears a striking resemblance to a real person, for example a made-up New York real estate tycoon named Ronald Rump who runs for president. Or you could defame the "police department of Bug Tussle" which in fact is composed of only one person -- that is, you refer to a group but the group is so small that it actually refers to an identifiable individual. See this answer regarding defaming people in fiction.

Okay, it's not actually true that a government can't be a legal person. The fact that in the US a government can't sue for defamation would be rooted in the First Amendment, and is surely embodied in case law that is lurking. In Canada, governments have had more power to pursue critic via defamation suits. In Ontario, Halton Hills (Town) v. Kerouac 80 O.R. (3d) 577 (2006) says that "a government may not sue in defamation". I expect that there is some such ruling in the history of US law.

  • So If i very to refer to a large group of say car manufacturers, or pharmaceuticals, it wouldn't be a problem? The other part of the question was what would happen if you depict the organization structure inaccurately (but not necessarily in bad light)... like say an organization has two vice presidents instead of 3? – Gaurav Jun 14 '16 at 5:43
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    It is not correct to say that governments are not legal persons; they are, they can hold property, sue and be sued (sovereign states have immunity unless they agree to be sued; they often do agree, usually in legislation - the phrase "This Act binds the Crown" is the usual formula in Australian law). – Dale M Jun 14 '16 at 9:38
  • @Gaurav, at least under current US law, "car manufacturers" (etc.) as a class cannot sue for defamation. As for inaccurate depiction, even outside of fiction, the plaintiff would have to prove that the inaccuracy caused actual damage, and damaged the reputation of the plaintiff. – user6726 Jun 14 '16 at 16:13
  • The answer still doesn't address the point of getting the structure of the organisation wrong. Does that pose a legal challenge? – Gaurav Jul 5 '16 at 11:28

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