Ghostwriters are hired by politicians, celebrities, professionals and even established authors to do the work of writing for significant monetary compensation. Although ghostwriters receive no professional credit for their authorship, publishers who employ ghostwriters enjoy the financial windfall of marketing a book by a well-known person. While the economic harm of purchasing a relatively inexpensive book from what the consumer thought was a best-selling author is relatively slight, the serious harm of ghostwriting is the message received by the consumer who thinks that the ideas and message of the book come from the purported author.
Despite the inherently deceptive nature of ghostwriting, it remains unimpeded by consumer protection laws. In Dastar Corporation v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, the United States Supreme Court found that section 43(a) of the Lanham Act prohibiting "false designations of origin" applies only to the physical object itself and not to the ideas contained within a work. This decision effectively renders enforcement of false designation of origin claims based on deceptive marketing of written works impossible. This note argues that, because the goal of ghostwriting is consumer deception, it should be subject to restriction as a form of false advertising. The note begins by exploring the background of ghostwriting. Next, the note explores the problems inherent in ghostwriting, including societal harms inflicted by ghostwriting. Finally, the note proposes a statutory solution to the ghostwriting problem which attempts to balance the interests and rights of authors and publishers with consumer protection.
T. J. Fosko,
Buying a Lie: The Harms and Deceptions of Ghostwriting,
35 U. Ark. Little Rock L. Rev. 165
Available at: https://lawrepository.ualr.edu/lawreview/vol35/iss1/6