I’m in the entertainment industry and I’m writing a book about one of its specific cottage industries. I have a lot to dish about and I’m not sure if my disguising names and identities is enough to legally protect me from people who might read the book and get a little excited and take legal action. What kind of attitude should I take on this?
Let’s face it, we live in the land (at least here in the US) of lawsuits. If someone can sue, and win, over a cup of hot coffee then certainly people can sue if they feel you’ve written about them in an unflattering light. I’m not a lawyer and in a situation like this I would defer to a lawyer, either a publishing lawyer by recommendation or an in-house lawyer at your publisher, however if you have concerns that you might be sued my guess is that you might be sued.
I don’t have any more information than what you’ve given me here, but you might want to consider making some major changes to your book if you are worried about lawsuits. You could fictionalize the book a la The Devil Wears Prada or, if you insist it would be much better as nonfiction, you’ll need to go that extra mile and really disguise your “characters” with more than just name changes. I think hair color and other defining characteristics will also probably have to go as well.
I will warn you that if a publisher feels that a book might bring lawsuits it’s going to be really hard to sell a project. The last thing publishers will want to do is get involved with something that upfront they feel might be nothing but a headache.