All persons fictitious disclaimer
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
In film the disclaimer usually takes this form:
The above is sometimes preceded by "The characters in this film are fictitious,".
This disclaimer is to avoid the possibility of legal action for libel. If a person believes that he or she is portrayed in a fictitious work (either under their real name or a made-up name) and is done so unflatteringly, this person might feel it an unfair jab at themselves and sue.
The wording of this particular disclaimer differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and in particular from country to country, as does its effectiveness.
If it is clearly false, and the resemblance is clearly no coincidence despite the disclaimer, it might have no effect whatsoever. On the other hand, if it is clearly true, then presumably again it would have no effect, as there is then no suggestion of libel to defend.
The disclaimer first originated after the 1932 MGM movie, Rasputin and the Empress, intimated Princess Natasha had been raped by Rasputin. Natasha's character was clearly intended to represent Princess Irina of Russia, and Princess Irina sued MGM for libel. After seeing the film twice, the jury agreed that the princess had been defamed. From then on, many movies have used the disclaimer to protect themselves from court action.
In an earlier instance, in the United Kingdom in 1908, the Sunday Chronicle published an article by a humourist about Dieppe Motor Week which included the remark "There is Artemus Jones with a woman who is not his wife, who must be, you know... the other thing", going on to describe this Artemus Jones as a churchwarden from Peckham. Thomas Artemus Jones (1871-1943), a barrister from North Wales who had contributed to the newspaper, sued for libel, and in 1910 won damages from the newspaper on the grounds that the article could be said to refer to him.
In the case of fanfiction, the author will usually give a disclaimer saying that the author of the fanfiction does not, in any way, profit from the story and that all creative rights to the characters belong to their original creator(s).
- "All events, characters and institutions in this motion picture are historically documented and any similarity to any person, black or white, or to any actual events, or institutions is intentional and anything but coincidential." --from the credits to Goodbye Uncle Tom
It is also possible for the disclaimer to be used as a total and blatant joke. This is so at the beginning of most episodes of South Park, which includes "all celebrity voices are impersonated... poorly". In the third Riverworld novel, The Dark Design, author Philip José Farmer says that "you may not be mentioned, but you're here". In the film An American Werewolf in London, the disclaimer refers to "persons living, dead or undead". An episode of the TV series Red Dwarf included a news report saying an ancient scroll had been found containing such a disclaimer for the Bible.
- Compare: faction, based on a true story, false document, fictionalization, nonfiction novel, true crime (genre), histories (history of the novel), stranger than fiction