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Legal question about topic for picture book

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Does anyone know if I would need permission from family/estate to write a picture book about a person (who died back about 15 years ago). It would be a short picture book history of her life and accomplishments.

What are the laws governing writing picture books about ordinary heroes/people - alive and dead?

thank you :)
#1 - January 15, 2018, 08:15 PM

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If the person was in any way a "public figure," my understanding is that you would not need actual permission. However, if you want their help in contacting and interviewing people who knew this person, or access to any archives about your subject, it's generally good to let them know what you are doing--but NOT to the extent of granting them veto power over your manuscript.
#2 - January 16, 2018, 07:18 AM
Harold Underdown

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My experience: I've written picture book biographies of living and deceased people for educational publishers, and I've never had to get permission from anyone for them. Perhaps my publishers did that?

But I have a friend who wrote a PB biography of a deceased person for a trade publisher, and that person's estate was involved in reviewing the manuscript.

So, I think it depends.

My .02 is to write the manuscript, use reliable, first person sources, and submit it. If a publisher wants to pursue it, they can tell you next steps.
#3 - January 16, 2018, 09:13 AM
PRUDENCE, THE PART-TIME COW, A CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK, BUSY BUS series, EMERGENCY KITTENS, and more!
Twitter @jodywrites4kids

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Thank you guys so very much! :)
#4 - January 16, 2018, 01:10 PM

The Graphics Artists Guild Handbook of Pricing & Ethical Guidelines (14th edition) says this depends on your states right of publicity. Since the person you would like to write about has been deceased for 15 years it depends on your states postmortem rights of publicity. The excerpt is fairly small but it mentions the states California, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Indiana. If one of those states is relevant I can share what it says.
#5 - February 27, 2018, 04:23 PM

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