Matthew Heller writes about how some lawsuits may chill people’s ability to use their own experiences as the basis for creative works:
The case of a woman who claims she is the real-life model for the character of a prostitute in a movie is one of three lawsuits filed last month which would punish writers for making creative use of their experiences.
The film “Finding Amanda” stars Matthew Broderick as a screenwriter with a gambling problem who tries to redeem himself by rescuing his young niece, the “Amanda” of the title, from a life of prostitution and drug use in Las Vegas. Writer-director Peter Tolan has said the film is loosely based on a trip to Vegas to help his own niece.
“This is painfully about me … The inspiration for it actually happened in real life,” he told an interviewer.
But now Tolan’s real-life niece, Alix Daily, is alleging he caused her emotional distress and invaded her privacy by basing the character of Amanda on her without her permission, using “confidential and private information” he and his wife had obtained when they helped “deal[ ] with a family crisis concerning [her].”
“Peter Tolan used this platform to advance his career by making a directorial debut in film at the expense of exploitation of his niece,” Daily says in a complaint filed May 27.
Read more on OnPoint. All three lawsuits pit the privacy of individuals being described in creative works against the rights of creative writers or artists to tell their own life’s experiences. Although one case involves a breach of privacy where confidentiality had allegedly been assured, the other two cases raise the important question of balancing rights to share one’s experiences with others’ privacy interests and privacy harms.