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‘Based on a True Story’ (Except the Parts That Aren’t)


But if someone can convincingly claim that he or she was harmed by what screenwriters made up, that is grounds for a strong defamation suit, said Jean-Paul Jassy, a lawyer who works on media and First Amendment cases in Los Angeles.“A disclaimer is not a silver bullet,” he said.“And this is where it gets very tricky with docudramas,” Mr. Jassy added. “A court could say: ‘I understand there are fictionalized elements of your show. But you used a real person’s name, and you presented as fact something that’s false that hurt their reputation.’”Lawsuits fail more often than not because very few fans of these shows probably believe they are watching history as it literally unfolded. Hollywood …

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