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Estate of Hemingway v. Random House, Inc.

23 N.Y.2d 341, 296 N.Y.S.2d 771, 244 N.E.2d 250 (1968)

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Estate of Hemingway v. Random House, Inc.

New York Court of Appeals

23 N.Y.2d 341, 296 N.Y.S.2d 771, 244 N.E.2d 250 (1968)

Facts

Ernest Hemingway and author A. E. Hotchner became friends during the last several years of Hemingway’s life. Hotchner was assigned to write articles about Hemingway, and the two became traveling and drinking companions. Hotchner also frequently visited Hemingway’s home. During his time with Hemingway, Hotchner took notes and sometimes made voice recordings as Hemingway reminisced about his life and expounded on his own literary works and the works of others. Hemingway approved when Hotchner used his extensive notes to publish articles in which he included lengthy and detailed quotes from their conversations. After Hemingway died, Hotchner wrote Papa Hemingway, a memoir in which he again quoted Hemingway at length. The memoir was published by Random House, Inc. (defendant). Hemingway’s widow and his estate (estate) (plaintiffs) sued Random House on the theory that the memoir violated the estate’s common-law copyright in Hemingway’s quoted commentary and opinion. The estate argued that Hemingway’s expression of his ideas and opinions, although verbal, was an act of literary creation and that Hotchner had merely served as Hemingway’s scribe. The estate moved to preliminarily enjoin the publication of the memoir, and the trial court denied the motion. After the memoir was published, the trial court granted Random House’s motion for summary judgment, and the estate appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Fuld, C.J.)

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