Unauthorized biography

An unauthorized biography is a biography written without the subject's permission or input. The term is usually restricted to biographies written within the subject's lifetime or shortly after his or her death; as such, it is not applied to biographies of historical figures written long after their deaths.
Unauthorized biographies are not necessarily unwelcomed by their subjects, and in fact some unauthorized biographies have been criticized for displaying overeager admiration for them; however, unauthorized biographies have a wider reputation for fueling controversy and painting unflattering portraits of their subjects.

Other names

Unauthorized biographies marked for revealing scandalous or embarrassing content are often called tell-alls, especially if they take the form of memoirs; tell-all biographies written by friends or family members of the subject are sometimes called kiss-and-tells. Due to the potential stigma associated with the phrase "unauthorized biography", unauthorized biographies written by journalists and intended to present a fairer portrait of the subject are sometimes called investigative biographies.


Unauthorized biographies may be considered more objective but less reliable than other biographies, because they are not subject to the subject's approval, but are also not privy to information or corrections known only to the subject or the subject's close friends and family.


The subjects of unauthorized biographies are almost always public figures. Rarely do public figures succeed in preventing the release of unauthorized biographies. Unauthorized biographies of people who are not deemed public figures may be considered violations of the right to privacy and subject to legal action. As Ted Schwarz writes:
Speaking of U.S. courts, Lloyd Rich writes:
The legality of unauthorized biographies varies by country. Brazil enacted a short-lived law in 2014 requiring permission from biographies' subjects before publication.
While unauthorized biographies often receive significant news coverage, their writers tend to face "media disdain" due to the perception that their work is gossipy, voyeuristic, and busybodyish.