S171B. Legal & Ethical Issues to Consider When Writing About Real People

Oregon Ballroom 203, Oregon Convention Center, Level 2
Saturday, March 30, 2019
10:30 am to 11:45 am


Writing about real people—living, dead, or even fictionalized—creates special risks that can result in costly damages and legal fees. It’s essential for authors to take the proper steps to protect themselves. Authors Guild Executive Director Mary Rasenberger will moderate a discussion about the basics of the laws surrounding defamation; risk mitigation tactics such as media liability insurance; how much can be changed before a memoir is no longer a memoir; and some ethical considerations that can arise outside the realm of the law.

Moderator: Mary Rasenberger is the Executive Director of the Authors Guild. Prior to joining the Guild, Mary practiced law for over 25 years, specializing in media and copyright law, and served as senior policy advisor for the U.S. Copyright Office and program manager at the Library of Congress.
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.

Umair Kazi is a Staff Attorney at the Authors Guild, a writer, and a translator. He received his JD from University of Iowa College of Law and his MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University School of the Arts.

Jill Bialosky’s four poetry collections include the recent The Players. She’s authored three novels, recently The Prize, and two memoirs, NYT Bestseller History of a Suicide and Poetry Will Save Your Life. Her writing appears in the New Yorker, Paris Review and more. She is an editor at W.W. Norton.


March 27–30, 2019
Portland, OR

Oregon Convention Center