I was wondering if any legal experts can give me any advice about how much freedom a writer has to refer to real people and places in a fictional work and in what situations it's best to get permission or avoid it altogether.
I do know that the chances of these people/place representatives even reading the reference are very slim, but in theory, let's say you ended up writing a best-seller, what would happen in these situations:
Can you reference the name of a real hotel in a novel such as the Plaza, NY. without asking for permission? Nothing negative is written about the hotel. We just know the scene takes place in front of it. Should you get permission to mention them first, or is it not necessary?
People: I know you can mention a famous person in a novel, but what about if you added a negative spin to that person:
E.g. You're acting like Oprah Winfrey on crack.
He looks like Bruce Willis without the creepy stare.
She looks like a Rosie O'Donnell before she put on the pounds.
Could those people sue in theory if they thought you were depicting them negatively? I'm thinking in particular about the Winfrey on crack line? Are they fair game as being in the public eye?
- You can't put a fictional character like Chewbacca in your book obviously, but can you just reference such a character.
E.g. My ex-wife looks like Chewbacca after a good shave. Or how about: He did a Sherlock Holmes on the filing cabinet. Could the company that owns the rights to the Sherlock Holmes/Star Wars franchise have a problem with such a line or is that just extremely unrealistic?
I know that the chances of a book being successful enough for the parties in question to even know about the reference to them are very slim, but any feedback from anyone with knowledge of such matters would be greatly appreciated!