Oscar 2014: The Academy Suing Heir of 1944 Oscar Winner

How to protect the integrity of the Oscar, the most covted award in the film industry?

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (AMPAS) has filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court over the statuette given to Joseph Wright for his art direction of the 1942 film “My Gal Sal.”

In an effort to stop the sale of Oscars, the Academy in 1951 began asking winners to sign a contract agreeing that the organization will have the first right to buy any award put up for sale. The Acad would pay a token $10.

Wright died in 1985 and his heirs put up the statuette for bids via Briarbrook Auctions, with unknown buyers paying $79,200.

The suit, filed Tuesday, says that the first-right purchase applies to heirs of anyone who won an Oscar. Sales of Oscars occur occasionally, and AMPAS always pursues the sellers to preserve the integrity of the award.

The Academy is seeking compensatory damages in excess of $79,200 and punitive damages.  Named as defendants in the suit are the art director’s heirs, Briarbook and the unknown buyers.

Wright was nominated for 12 Oscars, winning two, both in 1942: for “Sal” (color art direction) and “This Above All” (B&W art direction).