The "All Persons Fictitious" Disclaimer

All film companies and television networks use what’s called an “all persons fictitious” disclaimer that states that the persons portrayed in it are not based on real people. This action is taken to prevent the possibility of legal action for libel from any person who believes they have been defamed by their portrayal in the work, whether under their real name or a different one. This disclaimer, which appears in the end credits of films and TV shows, got its start back in 1934, when the film Rasputin and the Empress — starring Lionel, Ethel and John Barrymore — was produced by MGM. Princess Irina Alexandrovna Youssoupoff of Russia sued MGM, claiming she was clearly recognizable in the film as Princess Natasha, whose intended, Prince Chegodiefl, murders “the mad monk” in a palace on the Moika River. It wasn’t the murder charge that was at issue; rather, it was the film’s suggestion that Princess Natasha had been seduced by Rasputin. The jury saw the film twice, heard testimony, and agreed that Princess Irina had been defamed. Irina and her husband were awarded $127,373 ($2.5 million today) in damages and $1 million ($19.7 million today) in an out-of-court settlement with MGM. As a preventive measure against further lawsuits, the film was taken out of distribution for decades. Production companies thereafter protected themselves by labeling each production with the “all persons fictitious” disclaimer.