The law and economics of Hemingway’s “Old Man and the Sea”

Here is an edited excerpt (without the footnotes) from our latest paper “Misappropriation and The Old Man and the Sea,” which we shall be presenting at the Cuban Research Institute at FIU this Friday: 

“The Old Man and the Sea” is Hemingway’s most famous novel. It is the one work specifically mentioned by the Swedish Academy in its citation awarding Hemingway the 1954 Nobel Prize for literature. Furthermore, from a financial perspective, “The Old Man and the Sea” resulted in very lucrative publishing and movie deals for Ernest Hemingway. The editors of Life magazine, for example, paid the writer a lump sum of $40,000 up front for the rights to his story. The novella was also published by the New York publisher Charles Scribner’s & Sons and has sold millions of copies worldwide … According to one scholar, the novella still earns $100,000 a year in foreign royalties. In addition, Warner Brothers turned Hemingway’s story into a major motion picture and paid Hemingway $150,000 for the screen rights to his novella. Yet at no time would Hemingway, his publishers, or the movie studio compensate any of the humble men who in one form or another helped Hemingway create the literary and film versions of “The Old Man and the Sea”–Carlos Gutiérrez, Gregorio Fuentes, and Anselmo Hernández García (pictured below).

You can find a first draft of our paper here.

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