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Roger, Lawyer
Category: Intellectual Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 31687
Experience:  BV Rated by Martindale-Hubbell; SuperLawyer rating by Thompson-Reuters
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I am writing a short story about the dead rock star Kurt Cobain.

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I am writing a short story about the dead rock star Kurt Cobain. I want to re-imagine an alternative version of his suicide where the event was faked and he is secretly still alive and living in Idaho. Since none of the details of my story are actually true but are entirely fictional, do I bear any risk in using Mr. Cobain's name in the story?

Roger : Hi - my name is XXXXX XXXXX I'm an Intellectual Property litigation attorney. Thanks for your question. I'll be glad to assist.
Roger : More and more courts are recognizing that celebrities and their names are XXXXX XXXXX In other words, if the celebrity doesn't like the way they're being portrayed even in a fiction work, they may sue and the court may side with them. So you have to be very careful when you start dropping celebrity names even in a work of fiction.
Roger : Even in a case where the celebrity is deceased, if the story portrays the artist in a negative light, or even if it is flattering, if his name is XXXXX XXXXX his estate owns rights to the work, there is a possibility of being sued.
Roger : Thus, it's always possible to be sued. It would be best to visit the US Copyright website and see if there are any copyright claims to this name, and if there is a copyright owner, it would be best to contact them and try to get permission to used his name.

There are several listings for the artist's Kurt Cobain's work, but I don't see anything specifically for his name.

Roger : Because he is deceased, the possibility of being sued is much less, but it is still possible due to his celebrity.

Okay, thanks. XXXXX were to ask permission of his estate, would you suggest is a good way to go about that? And is it a strong possibility I will have to pay money to use his name?

Roger : That would be best in order to avoid being sued.
Roger : The best way would be to send a letter and request permission to do what you seek. There's no need to mention payment at this juncture - - just ask for permission and see where it goes.
Roger : IF demand for payment is made, you should consult an attorney about negotiating the deal.

Great, thanks a lot for your help.

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