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Academy Sues Oscar Winner's Heirs for Auctioning His Award

Briarbrook Auctions sold Joseph Wright's 1942 statuette for $79,200 in June.

Oscar Statue - P 2014
A.M.P.A.S

A Oscar statuette awarded in 1942 is at the center of a new lawsuit against the heirs of late Oscar-winner Joseph Wright and the auction house which allegedly sold his award.

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In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences alleges that Wright's heirs allowed Briarbrook Auctions to auction the statuette last month for $79,200.

Read the complaint here.

The suit says the sale to the unknown buyers violated the Academy's bylaws, which prohibit its members from selling their Oscars without offering the Academy a right of first refusal to purchase them for $10. The suit says this rule also applies to anyone who inherits an Oscar.

Wright's heirs, the auction house and the Oscars' unknown buyers are named as defendants in the suit.

The Academy is seeking compensatory damages in excess of $79,200 as well as punitive damages. It is also demanding the right to buy the Oscar for $10.

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The Academy is very aggressive in protecting the sanctity of the Oscar and has brought lawsuits in the past against those who attempt to resell them. After 1951, winners have been asked to sign a contract giving the Academy the first right to buy Oscars for $10. (That price was later lowered to $1.)  Sales of Oscars from before that year have been subject to litigation.

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Wright, who died in 1985, won the Oscar for color and art direction on My Gal Sal.

Briarbrook Auctions did not immediately respond to request for comment.