Spring is right around the corner, and now might be a good time for people to eliminate some clutter at home. Maybe someone sells a bowling ball he or she hasn't used in years for a few bucks, an old bicycle that's too small or an Academy Award that's been gathering dust in the closet. (Hey, movie stars need to clean, too.) Just in case any Academy Award recipient decides to part ways with his or her trophy, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has a plan in place to keep it off the market—and it isn't lucrative.
According to the Los Angeles Times, if an Academy Award winner tries to sell the statue, the academy's lawyers offer a $10 buyback. If the winner declines, they'll go to court.
"They shouldn't become items of commerce that can be purchased and sold on the market," Attorney John B. Quinn, the academy's general counsel, told the Los Angeles Times.
This is part of the academy's plan to protect its image and limit any copyright or trademark infringement. In the past, it has put the kibosh on rentals of 8-foot Oscar statues, sued a chocolate maker for creating Oscar-shaped candy and forced websites to stop using the "Oscar" name.
In 1991, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the award is protected under federal copyright laws and is not part of the public domain, stating that the iconic statue is "recognized worldwide as a distinctive symbol of outstanding achievement in film."
The Los Angeles Times reported that over the past 30 years, Quinn and his law firm have filed around a dozen lawsuits in order to stop sales of Oscar statuettes and sent about 100 letters persuading would-be sellers to reconsider.
"The academy, its members and the many film artists and craftspeople who've won Academy Awards believe strongly that Oscars should be won, not purchased," the academy said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times.
Since 1951, each recipient has signed a document that gives the academy the right of first refusal regarding the statue.
It hasn't stopped some awards from hitting the market, however. In 1999, Michael Jackson purchased the best picture award for "Gone With the Wind," magician David Copperfield owned the Oscar for "Casablanca" for a while before selling it, and someone sold the 1941 best screenplay statue for "Citizen Kane" in 2012 for $588,455.
Steven Spielberg, who has earned plenty of awards without needing to pay for them, purchased three Oscars to donate back to the academy—$607,500 for Clark Gable's 1934 best actor award, $578,000 for Bette Davis' "Jezebel" Oscar and $180,000 for Davis' 1935 award for "Dangerous."