“Based on a true story” (except parts that are not)
But if someone can make a convincing case that they’ve been wronged by what the screenwriters have invented, that’s solid grounds for a libel suit, said Jean-Paul Jassy, an attorney who works on the media and First Amendment affairs in Los Angeles.
“A warning is not a magic bullet,” he said.
“And that’s where it gets really tricky with docudramas,” Mr. Jassy added. “A court might say, ‘I understand there are fictional elements to your show. But you used the name of a real person and presented as fact something false that damaged their reputation.
Lawsuits most often fail because very few fans of these shows likely believe they’re watching the story as it literally unfolds. Hollywood has, of course, always amped up the drama by telling — and selling — true stories.
But when shows like “The Crown” become so popular because — at least to some degree — viewers believe they are getting an education, the liberties taken by writers go beyond dramatic license, say those who have an interest in clarifying the facts.
Hugo Vickers, a British journalist who fact-checked episodes of ‘The Crown’ for The Sunday Times and is the author of several books on the monarchy, called some of what happened over the five seasons from the “complete perversion of history” show. .”
“They do it all the time,” Mr. Vickers said. “And they don’t care.”
Netflix has added a disclaimer after criticism from high places over inaccuracies in ‘The Crown’, including famed British actress Judi Dench and former Prime Minister John Major over a scene that depicts an imaginary conversation between Mr. Major and Prince Charles about the Queen. possible abdication. But the disclaimer, saying the series is “inspired by real events,” didn’t appear on the show itself, but rather on its press materials and in the trailer, which aired on Youtube.
A disclaimer also appears on HBO’s Lakers show, saying in part, “This series is a dramatization of certain facts and events.” But Mr. West, the former coach, and some of his players found that utterly insufficient. Through his lawyer, Mr West demanded an apology from HBO, saying the show “falsely and cruelly” decried him as an “intoxicated, uncontrollable rage aholic”.
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