Case Studies

A writer has an extraordinary family history – what legal issues might arise when writing a literary work based on truth?

Cover image for ‘The Secret Home’ author and illustrator, Andy Mia Kranz.

Andy Mia Kranz has an extraordinary family history. In 1941, her father and grandparents faced the threat of deportation from their home in Poland because they were Jewish. They were hidden by a Christian family and lived underground for three years, surviving the war thanks to the kindness of these strangers. Andy has written and illustrated a book based on her father’s recollections of this period of his life.  

Andy, who has self-published her book, came to Arts Law with concerns about privacy and defamation law. She was asking if she might need to include a disclaimer in her book that, aside from the people involved in the events, any resemblance the characters bear to real people is coincidental. 

Roxanne Lorenz, a solicitor at Arts Law, advised Andy on the issues arising when writing a book based on a true story. She explained that in order to take action for defamation, the concerned persons would need to be able to show that a statement was made which was damaging to their reputation. In this case, defamation was not a concern, given the positive way the subjects were portrayed and there were no defamatory statements or imputations being made. In any event, apart from the author’s father, the subjects of the book are deceased which further minimises any risk of defamation action arising.

Of her experience with Arts Law, Andy said: 

“I approached Arts Law when I was self-publishing. As my book is a biographical story, I needed advice about issues of privacy and defamation. It was reassuring (and economical) to be able to approach the Arts Law Centre and have my matter resolved so swiftly and professionally.”

Andy’s book is called The Secret Home and more information about the story and accompanying illustrations can be found on her website

Arts Law encourages all artists to seek advice before works are made public, like in this case, so issues can be addressed well before there is the possibility that a dispute may arise.