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Thomas Swartz
Thomas Swartz, Lawyer
Category: Intellectual Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 3004
Experience:  Twenty one years experience as a lawyer in New York and New Jersey. Former Appellate Law Clerk.
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So I spent 1 1/2 years writing my mothers memoirs with her

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So I spent 1 1/2 years writing my mother's memoirs with her verbal assistance. She is illiterate. I have six siblings several of whom had expressed their desire to write a book also. None have done so. My mother is 80 years old. Now she wants me to give a portion of the proceeds to her 20 grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren. (Can you imagine trying to divide those royalties up! HA!). Well my sister is taking her to an intellectual attorney this week to stop me from publishing the memoirs since I will not agree to this. If I changed the names, places, times and published it as a fiction, and my siblings could read thru the lines and recognize the story, will they have grounds to sue me? If my mother gave me her story on cassette tape, gave me my fathers letters to scan and research for the book, gave me the photographs to scan and use for the book, travelled with me to interview someone for the book, allowed others to read the book and attended a gathering with those reviewers, can she stp me from publishing the book at this late date? (Publishing without changing the names etc.)

They really would have no grounds to stop you from publishing your book. Anybody is allowed to write biographical works about anybody with or without authorization. This is unless you agreed before hand not to disclose any material that was disclosed to you. And everything you have written indicates just the contrary - that your mother cooperated and gave no indication that you agreed not to disclose anything. There is also a potential for defamation claims if you publish anything that is untrue. There also may be a problem using existing materials like letters and photographs. These would be entitled to copyright protection, which your mom would own. So using these without her express permission may be problematic. So, an intellectual property attorney may threaten you with various types of claims like this. But unless there is some basis for such claims they can not stop you from publishing your book by itself. However, in order to avoid the hassle of a threatening attorney, it may be wise to negotiate some type of royalty arrangement.

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