When you were little, did your mother ever warn you, "Open your mouth again and you'll be in big trouble!"? You, being an embryonic writer, probably kept right on talking and, as a result, served time in solitary confinement.
Now that you're a writer with adult responsibilities, you risk much greater penalties if you open your mouth at the wrong time. Just a few thoughtless or unguarded words may well result in expensive, agonizing litigation, and the prospect of a large court judgment against you.
Your dilemma, of course, is that you can't take your mother's advice to heart, because you make your living by opening your big mouth. Your task, then, is to learn to discriminate between situations where it's legally safe to mouth off and those where it isn't. In this chapter, and the next, we will alert you to the broad rules of libel, invasion of privacy, and misappropriation of a person's right of publicity. Does this mean we will provide you with definitive, absolutely reliable guidelines or rules of thumb? No. They simply don't exist.
We shall lay out the general principles governing the protection of "personality." But you should realize that while common sense will help you solve most problems identified in the other chapters of this book, the law of defamation and privacy is both so complex and so dynamic that you can't always rely on it to guide you. Put more directly, common