Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Law According to Oscar

Who knew so much legal wrangling went into the awarding of a simple Oscar? The Academy this year is particularly concerned about the possibility of Heath Ledger winning the award posthumously. In case that happens, the Academy needs to decide who actually gets the statue. Here's the full story.

It seems that a few lawyers have had to put quite a lot of time and research into figuring out who should be awarded physical custody of Ledger's statuette. Ordinarily, the spouse or oldest child would get the posthumous award. But Ledger wasn't married and his only child is 3. So the kid gets it. But the custodian of the award has to sign the contract agreeing not to sell the award. The Academy wants to prevent the creation of a black market where Oscar statuettes are sold for hundreds of thousands, potentially even millions, of dollars. So all Oscar recipients have to sign an agreement that they won't sell the award without first offering it to the Academy for $1. Obviously, Matilda at age 3 can't sign that contract. The thing I hadn't ever thought about before is that Matilda's mother can't sign the contract and thereby bind Matilda for life.

I find these odd, quirky little legal conundrums fascinating. I love that the Academy officials who just want to make sure the right people in Ledger's life get the award if he wins it have to take nuances of contract law into consideration. I think the fact that I enjoyed this article is probably strong evidence that I am a major law geek.


Anonymous said...

A very interesting legal conundrum that has already been resolved by the Academy. Matilda will not actually become owner of the statue until 2023 when she is 18 and only if she signs a contract that she will not sell it without first offering it to the Academy for a dollar. Thus, the eventual disposition of the Oscar will not be determined for some time, although it appears that Ms Williams will be the guardian.

S said...

Yeah, I just thought it was funny how much legal work had to go into reaching that resolution. I wouldn't mind getting paid to sort out quirky little legal issues like that. The Academy, also, apparently has decided that they weren't entirely correct in the way they handled Anna Paquin and Tatum O'Neal, both of whom were well under 18 when they won. Both are, of course, over 18 now and have legally signed the contract since their 18th birthdays, so it's a moot point, but if another minor wins, they'll probably do things a little differently. Who knew contract law could be so much fun?

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