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Fiction and Libel, Continued

An Associated Press article dated November 23, 2009, which I found posted at, sheds further light on Vickie Stewart's lawsuit against Haywood Smith and St. Martin's Press, respectively author and publisher of The Red Hat Club.

To quote from the article: "Because Stewart is not a public figure, her attorneys only needed to prove that Smith acted with negligence, not the higher standard of actual malice."

As I was reading this, it occurred to me that Stewart is now a public figure, or at least someone considerably better known than she was before the lawsuit was filed. Of course that has no significance in terms of how the case was decided, since she was unknown prior to the litigation. But it does raise the question of when and how someone becomes a public figure. Is a writer whose name might be well-known but whose face isn't a public figure? (Side note: I think it was Woody Allen who once said that the best way to be famous was to be famous as a writer, since everyone knew your name but no one knew your face, so you could go for a walk or to a restaurant without being harried by fans.) Actually, I think a writer--a published writer--is a public figure. But even that might depend on how well-known the writer is.

Another quote from the article: "Stewart thanked members of the jury at the conclusion of the trial and said she hoped the verdict would lead to better publishing laws."

"Better publishing laws"? What, pray, might those be? I can think of all sorts of appalling possibilities.

And, finally, a third quote from the article: "Smith said she accepted the verdict and hoped Stewart would find it healing."
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