Television Academy Sues to Block Sale of Whitney Houston's Emmy

Withney Houston performs in Las Vegas
David LEFRANC/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Withney Houston performs in Las Vegas on Sept. 16, 2004.  

The statuette is a loan, not a gift, according to the lawsuit.

The Television Academy is suing to stop Whitney Houston's heirs from selling her Emmy statuette because the sale would tarnish the award, according to a complaint filed Wednesday (June 22) in California federal court.

Houston's Emmy is currently listed at $10,000 on Heritage Auctions' website and is set to be sold on Friday, but the Academy says if the sale is allowed to proceed it will undermine the prestige of the award.

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The Academy also claims the statuette is not actually Houston's property; the awards are loans, not gifts.

"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," states the complaint. When an honoree dies, the Academy "permits the artist's heirs and successors in interest to retain custody of copies to symbolize the achievements of the deceased honoree."

Houston won the Emmy for outstanding individual performance in a variety or musical in 1986 for "Saving All My Love for You," which she performed at the Grammys. The Academy claims there was a notice affixed to the bottom of the award that makes it clear an honoree or heir can't sell it. That notice wasn't attached when Houston's received it, according to the complaint, so the auction house has ignored previous warnings from the Academy. 

"The Television Academy has never intended that the Emmy Statuette copies be treated as articles of trade," states the complaint. "The original statuette is registered under the copyright laws as an 'unpublished' work of art: copies of the statuette are not, and never have been, offered for sale or given to the general public." 

The Academy is suing for copyright infringement and conversion. It is asking the court to have the award returned to its possession during the lawsuit and to make a determination of its rights in the Emmy.

This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.