All persons fictitious disclaimer  

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"The mind of man can imagine nothing which has not really existed." --Edgar Allan Poe

Les Poires, as sold separately to cover the expenses of a trial of Le Charivari
Les Poires, as sold separately to cover the expenses of a trial of Le Charivari
This page All persons fictitious disclaimer is part of the fiction series.Illustration: Screenshot from A Trip to the Moon (1902) Georges Méliès
This page All persons fictitious disclaimer is part of the fiction series.
Illustration: Screenshot from A Trip to the Moon (1902) Georges Méliès

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The All persons fictitious disclaimer is a standard disclaimer used in works of fiction in an attempt to avoid liability for defamation.

In film the disclaimer usually takes this form:

"Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental."

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).


based on a true story, false document, fictionalization


"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

Comedy purposes

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.

See also

fiction, disclaimer
Compare: faction, based on a true story, false document, fictionalization, nonfiction novel, true crime (genre), histories (history of the novel), stranger than fiction

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "All persons fictitious disclaimer" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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