Academy sues man claiming to be 'Oscar winner'

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Academy sues man claiming to be 'Oscar winner'

Tue Oct 20, 2009 @ 10:12AM PST

By Eriq Gardner


Oscar The lawyers inside us have always admired AMPAS and its hyper-aggressive protection of its treasured Oscar statuette. Now the org has decided to crack down on individuals falsely claiming to have won a little gold man.

The organization has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against California resident Brice Carrington for claiming he was a three-time "Oscar winner" in sound design. 

Carrington paid a jeweler to create a fake Academy Award statue, which he showed potential investors, some of whom gave him more than $3 million to fund various sound-effects projects. Two months ago, police arrested and charged him with five counts of wire fraud and four counts of tax evasion. On September 4, Carrington entered into a plea agreement, admitting his scheme.

Carrington may be an unsympathetic defendant, but the real news may be how the Academy continues to use its intellectual property rights to protect its name and brand. In 1991, a federal appeals court ruled that Oscar statuettes are protected by federal copyright law, reversing a lower court decision made two years earlier. Since then, the Academy has gone on a Godzilla-like litigation rampage.

Earlier this year, the Academy sued the CEO of Monte Carlo Prods in Atlanta for throwing parties that included giant replicas of Oscar statuettes as props. Last year, the Academy went to trial against two women who tried to sell their late aunt's 1929 Best Actress Oscar statute to generate money for charity. (The Academy has sued  others for selling statues too.) The year before that, the Academy sued the operator of Oscarwatch.com, a website devoted to predicting to the winners.

The Academy is getting tons of attention this year for broadening its best picture nominees from 5 to 10. Will we also see a doubling of its litigation efforts?


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The Hollywood Reporter
The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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