Can Aaron Carter’s Memoir Legally Be Published?

Soon after Aaron Carter’s death, excerpts of his unpublished memoir were made public. Because these excerpts were published so soon after the young star’s death, many felt that it was a callous act on the publisher’s part. Recent allegations have claimed that Aaron was trying to prevent the publisher from releasing the memoir. Which has caused a lot of people to ask, is it even legal for this to be published?

What Happened?

Aaron Carter tragically passed away on November 5th, 2022. He was only 34 years old. Though his official cause of death has not been released, speculations have included suicide, and substance abuse, and more. Since Aaron’s passing, excerpts of his memoir have been released and the allegations within the memoir are troubling. Some of them include abuse allegations against Michael Jackson, and intimate details of his romantic relationship with Hilary Duff. Even more troubling is that, according to Carter’s representatives, Aaron did not want his memoir to be released and, in the days leading up to his untimely demise, Aaron was actively trying to prevent the publication of his memoir. A lot of people are wondering if it’s even legal for the memoir to be published in the first place.

What If He Didn’t Want It Published?

It’s common for famous people to hire someone to ghostwrite an autobiography or memoir. The celebrity gives the publisher, ghostwriter, or an interviewer information about themselves which is then turned into an autobiography or memoir. It’s also common for a publisher to have some agreement, usually in the form of a contract, with the celebrity in question. And, in a lot of cases, a celebrity signs over the rights to the content. It’s important to note that we don’t know what the contract with the publisher said. In fact, we don’t even know that there was a contract. However, if the publisher had the rights to the content, Aaron would likely have a difficult time stopping the publication of the memoir even if he were alive. Since he’s no longer living, stopping the publication of his memoir may be an increasingly complicated issue.

What about Defamation Claims?

If the claims in his memoir were untrue, those hurt by his false claims may be able to sue for defamation. However, in order to sue for defamation, you must show that you have been financially damaged by the claims that were made against you. For example, if your co-worker posts on social media that you are drinking on the job—and you weren’t, and you’re fired and unable to find another job because of that, that may be considered to be defamation. Also, since some of these claims involve public figures, there are additional standards that need to be met in order to have a claim for defamation. In order for public figures to win a defamation case, they need to prove actual malice. Actual malice can be a complicated issue. But, in short, it just means that the plaintiff needs to prove that the defendant either knew that their statements were false, or acted with reckless disregard for the truth of the statements.

Can You Sue Someone Who Isn’t Alive?

Yes, you can. If someone wanted to sue Aaron Carter for the claims in his memoir, they’d have to bring a claim against his estate. Since Aaron Carter passed away before creating a will, a court will most likely appoint a representative to manage the estate until an executor is chosen. However, matters become complicated when a person doesn’t have a large estate. If you have millions worth of damages, but the defendant’s estate is only worth a couple thousand dollars, your options regarding compensation may be limited. If defamation claims were to arise, there’s another party that may actually have more liability than Aaron’s estate.

The Publisher

Publishing Carter’s full memoir could actually open the publisher up to liability. Since the controversial claims have been made, the publisher has decided to hold off on publishing the memoir out of respect for Carter’s grieving family. Many legal teams advise their clients out of an abundance of caution. The publisher may have already taken on liability by releasing those excerpts. Holding off on the publication of the memoir may be the best way to prevent a lawsuit—even if it is in an abundance of caution.

Respecting the Family

Though Aaron Carter is a well-known public figure, he was still a human being with family members who are grieving their loss. It is important that we respect their right to grieve and give them the space necessary to do so.