RPS: Writing Under the Influence

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Title: RPS: Writing Under the Influence
Date(s): August 12, 2001
Medium: online
Topic: Fanfiction, RPS
External Links: RPS: Writing Under the Influence/WebCite
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RPS: Writing Under the Influence is an essay by Kit Mason.

It is part of the Fanfic Symposium series.

A direct response to this essay is RPS Reality Check.


I saw a post from someone on a private list recently, asking whether it was okay to write slash stories about real people in a lawsuit, using their real names but saying that they did different things than what really occurred.

My overwhelming reaction was one word: stupid.

Let me supply a small lesson in legal reality and political tactics here, based on the courses I've taken in communications law and practical modern politics. Any of you who have more education in these matters than I have, please feel free to let me know if I'm not current in my definitions.

There are nice, polite, legal words concerning writing and publishing stories saying that real people did things they never did. They are said by polite attorneys in their $600 suits, in front of judges in their official robes. Those words include, but are not limited to: libel, slander, invasion of privacy and defamation of character.
Think about this. Is real-person slash worth making serious, life-altering changes to the rest of your life?

I'm not saying whether you should write it or not. That's up to you. But I am saying that putting it out on the Internet is simply asking for trouble. And I don't want to hear that it's legal in other countries, or encouraged in other cultures, because that won't mean a thing when you're in a courtroom in the current right-wing, conservative-retrenching version of America.

Here's the practical political reality: this isn't the 1960s or 1970s any more. This is not a time when liberalism and radical thought are particularly acceptable in political, legal or governmental circles. This is a time when the backlash against "promiscuity" and "sexual misbehavior" and "pornography" is strong, and when the vast majority of judges in our fair land are right-wing, hard-line, law-and-order, by-the-book Republicans.

And if you go out of line, they'll throw that book right at your head.

Don't believe me? Check out the penalties in your particular state's laws concerning these things; most states have put their law codes up on line so they can be searched. See for yourself. When you mess with someone's reputation in public, you mess with that person's livelihood -- and this isn't taken lightly.

But far be it from me to make your decisions for you. What you write and what you do with it is up to you. It's a bit like drinking and driving -- it's your choice, right up until you drive that car head on into someone else, and then what happens won't be your choice, ever again. You have every right to be as stupid as you want, and act as irresponsibly and illegally as you want -- and to have to live with the consequences.