Government to take ownership of Kennedy assassination film
'Free, unfettered access' is promisedApril 24, 1997
Web posted at: 11:58 p.m. EDT (0358 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A government board announced Thursday that it will officially take ownership of a film that captured the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
The so-called Zapruder film, photographed by amateur photographer Abraham Zapruder, was officially declared the government's property by the Assassination Records Review Board Thursday by a 5-0 vote. Board member Tom Samoluk told CNN the transfer probably will not take place until at least August 1998.
The board also ruled that Congress should compensate Zapruder's family.
Ownership of the original, 26-second film has been at issue since 1992, when Congress created the board and ordered it to collect all assassination-related records in government possession.
The status of the film was ambiguous because, while the late photographer's family legally owned the film, it has been stored in the National Archives since 1978.
"The American people, when they think about the assassination, bring to mind the pictures in the Zapruder film. (It is a) very symbolic piece of evidence," said board member Anna Nelson.
'Free, unfettered access' promised
The board said there will "free and unfettered access to these images at a reasonable cost."
The transfer would be a "paper transfer," since the film would remain at the Archives annex in College Park, Maryland, where it is kept in a vault to prevent deterioration.
The Zapruder family controlled access to the film through its family-owned company, the LHM Company. An attorney for LHM said the family had allowed access to copies of the film for researchers and others, and had charged commercial organizations for its use.
Under any agreement, LHM will continue to hold the copyright to the film, allowing the family to continue to profit from its commercial use. Attorney James Silverberg declined to say how much the family has earned from the film, but said most people tend to overestimate the royalties.
Silverberg said Thursday he felt it was "unnecessary for the government to seize title to a film that's been at Archives" for so many years, "but we respect the board's decision."
He said the family and the Justice Department have already begun discussions over monetary compensation for the original film. He declined to discuss specifics.
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