F156. When Is It Defamation? Legal Issues for Nonfiction Authors

AWP Bookfair Stage, Exhibit Halls D & E, Washington Convention Center, Level Two
Friday, February 10, 2017
10:30 am to 11:45 am


Writing about real people, living or dead, creates special risks that can result in costly damages and legal fees. It’s essential for nonfiction authors to take the proper steps to protect themselves. This panel, composed of legal and publishing industry experts, will explore the basics of defamation, public disclosure of private facts, and misappropriation. The panelists will then address risk mitigation, releases, liability insurance, and other methods authors can use to avoid legal exposure.



Mary Rasenberger is the Executive Director of the Authors Guild. Prior to joining the Guild, Mary practiced law for over twenty-five years, specializing in media and copyright law, and served as senior policy advisor for the US Copyright Office and program manager at the Library of Congress.

Susan Cheever is the author of sixteen books including biographies, memoirs, and five novels. She teaches in the Bennington MFA program and at The New School.

David Cay Johnston is a Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative reporter and bestselling author formerly with The New York Times. He is a former president of Investigative Reporters and Editors. He chairs the Investigative Post board. He now teaches tax and regulatory law at Syracuse U College of Law.

Ellis B. Levine, a partner of Cowan DeBaets Abrahams & Sheppard, served as vice president, secretary, general counsel, and a member of the board of directors of Random House, Inc. from 1989 until 1998. He primarily represents book and audio publishers, authors, and literary agents.

Laura R. Handman divides her time between the New York and Washington, DC, offices of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, where she cochairs the Appellate Practice. For more than thirty years, she has provided prepublication advice and defended authors, US and foreign book, magazine, and newspaper publishers, and broadcasters in libel, copyright, and other content matters.


March 4–7, 2020
San Antonio, TX

Henry B. González Convention Center