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AGO 1951 No. 124 - September 07, 1951
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington


Assuming the State legally acquired title to a motion picture, it may sell distribution rights thereto.

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                                                               September 7, 1951

Honorable H. D. Van Eaton
Department of Public Institutions
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 124

Attention:  Mr. H. R. Washington

Dear Sir:

            Your letter of August 16, 1951, requests an opinion upon the legality of an assignment of the distribution rights of a State motion picture.

            We conclude that such rights may be sold.


            Now being produced for the Department of Fisheries is a sound and color film entitled "The Salmon Crisis."  Upon completion of production, the movie will become State property.  The Department of Fisheries plans to retain control of the exhibiting of the movie in the State of Washington, but would like to assign, on a royalty basis, distribution rights without the state.

            Rem. Rev. Stat. § 10805 (section 47, chapter 7, Laws of 1921) reads, in part, as follows:

            "The director of efficiency [now Public Institutions, see section 21, chapter 176, Laws of 1935, and section 5, chapter 114, Laws of 1947] shall have the power, and it shall be his duty:  * * * (5) To, upon the request of the officer or department, or the governing authorities of any state institution,  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] having the custody of any personal property belonging to the state,authorize the sale or exchange of the same, when it shall appear that the office, department, or institution has no further use for such property; * * *" (Emphasis supplied)

            We are of the opinion that Rem. Rev. Stat. § 10805, supra, impliedly authorizes the sale of the distribution rights of "The Salmon Crisis," provided, of course, the Department of Fisheries "has no further use for such property [rights]."  Whether the rights are to be sold for a lump sum, or on a royalty basis, lies within the discretion of the Director of Public Institutions.  There must, however, be a sale; the statute does not authorize any lease, license, or partnership agreement.

            Whether the Department of Fisheries had the law's sanction to contract for the production of "The Salmon Crisis" is not now before us, and upon it we refrain from expressing any opinion.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

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