ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Film Academy Claims Right to Buy Back Oscar for $10

Aa An interesting restraint-on-alienation case is brewing in Hollywood.  Does the winner of an Academy Award (or her heirs) have the right to sell the Oscar statuette, or does the Academy have a contractual right in perpetuity to buy the statuette back for a pittance?

That’s the issue involving heirs of silent film star and film mogul Mary Pickford. Pickford won an Oscar as Best Actress in 1930 for her first speaking part, in Coquette -- that's her with her statuette -- and got a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1975.  She was also a co-founder of United Artists.  Her heirs want to sell the Oscar statues.  Presumably many collectors of film memorabilia would be interested.

But the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is suing to prevent them from selling the awards. AMPAS says that Oscar-winners are required to sign an agreement that gives it a perpetual right to buy back any Oscar statuette for $10 if it ever goes on sale. 

In addition to the contractual issues, there may be problems (according to a colleague) with the Rule Against Perpetuities in at least some states, since the repurchase right isn’t limited to lives-in-being plus 21 years.

[Frank Snyder]

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