Judge Bars Auction of Whitney Houston’s Emmy, For Now
A judge has temporarily blocked Whitney Houston’s estate from auctioning off the late icon’s 1986 Emmy statuette, after the Television Academy claimed it's not theirs to sell.
California Judge Percy Anderson ruled in favor of the Academy, who brought a lawsuit against Houston’s estate when they listed the Emmy — which Houston won for her performance of "Saving All My Love for You” — on Heritage Auctions’ website for $10,000. The Academy made the argument that the Emmy itself is a loan, and that a label on the bottom of the statuette states it belongs to the Academy, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
"When the Television Academy honors an artist for an achievement, it lends a copy of the Emmy Statuette to the artist to signify and symbolize the honor," reads the official complaint. It also asserts that when a winner dies, his or her heirs are allowed to "retain custody of copies to symbolize the achievements of the deceased honoree."
"If Heritage's highly publicized auction is allowed to go forward, it will undermine the prestige of the Emmy Award and tarnish the Television Academy's reputation, leaving the impression that the highest honor in the television industry is a commodity available for sale to the highest bidder,” the Academy argued.
Heritage Auctions, meanwhile, argued Houston didn’t know the statuette was a loan, and that the Academy didn’t have rules in place about the rights to statuette ownership until long after Houston’s Emmy win.
But Judge Anderson ruled against Heritage, saying, "Specifically, the Court concludes that the Television Academy has met its burden that the Emmy statuette given to Ms. Houston for her to take home, as opposed to the prop statuette presented during the awards ceremony, contained the label stating that the statuette 'is the property of and all rights are reserved by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.'
"Contrary to Heritage’s assertion that the Television Academy is attempting to enforce an agreement between the Television Academy and Ms. Houston that she did not sign or agree to be bound by, the label is instead evidence of the Television Academy’s ownership of the statuette, not evidence of an unenforceable agreement between the parties," he continued.
Heritage cannot auction the Emmy at the moment, though the lawsuit isn’t over just yet. The auction house will get another chance to argue against The Academy before a judge possibly issues a preliminary injunction.