Updated: The Depp/Heard Defamation Case and How To Avoid Your Memoir Getting You Into Trouble.
Updated: Jun 2, 2022
Update: The results of this trial saw most of the benefit going to Johnny Depp. The jury found that although Ms. Heard didn't name Mr. Depp in her OpEd article there was still enough evidence to suggest she had malice toward Mr. Depp in her intent that potentially caused him to lose millions.
Those feeling they have been wronged or feel they are due damages because of books, articles or chapters in multi-authored books could use this case to support lawsuits around defamation. Continue reading below to find out how you may avoid defamation challenges in your writing. This is not an exhaustive layout of what you should do for your writing and I highly recommend you speak to a lawyer before publishing your manuscript.
So, long story short. Amber Heard and Johnny Depp were married. During their marriage, Ms. Heard accused Mr. Depp of physical violence. Mr. Depp denies it. Mr. Depp accused Ms. Heard of physical and emotional violence towards him. She has admitted to some parts of that. Neither has proved it in court, and no criminal charges were brought against either party. But in the public court of opinion, we have made up our minds, resulting in steering movie roles away from both these actors. Whether any of it is true or not. Mr. Depp is now suing Ms. Heard for 50 million dollars in a televised defamation lawsuit, and I am here for it.
My beliefs aside, I am watching closely for how it will play out. Potentially, it all boils down to this. Did Amber Heard's OpEd piece that "she wrote" cause Johnny Depp's career and reputation to be damaged? There is a 2-year gap between their divorce and the OpEd piece that Ms. Heard's lawyers want to dismiss completely, which is when the real damage was done, in my opinion. But The OpEd piece was the most solid piece of evidence Mr. Depp's team could hold her accountable for.
How it will work in Ms. Heard's favor.
She never mentioned Mr. Depp in her piece. She mentioned she became the face of domestic violence two years before the OpEd. But because of the timing of the piece, it was a little after her divorce was finalized with Depp. If the jury believes that she wasn't talking about Depp in that piece, she will be able to win the lawsuit. If that is the only piece of evidence that shows she was intent on harming Depp's reputation or, as a result of that piece, his reputation was harmed, and it's thrown out, she will win. Her team wants to throw out anything that happened in that 2-year gap before the OpEd piece and the OpEd.
How it will work in Mr. Depp's favor.
If he can prove that he was the object of the article she wrote and as a result, caused him to lose roles such as Pirates of the Caribbean 6 or his replacement in other movie roles, as well as harm to his family and more. She didn't use his name, but because of how high profile this case is, it would be hard not to logically connect her being the unproved "face of domestic violence" with the relationship she had with Depp.
What does this mean to you as a writer?
If Depp is successful, things could get even tighter for writers in general when expressing personal experiences without fear of retaliation. If he is unsuccessful, I think this is still a good classroom for keeping names and identifying characteristics out of your manuscripts.