Arbitrators declared Tuesday the government must pay the heirs of Abraham Zapruder $16 million for film he took of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Justice Department said.
A three-member arbitration board was established when lawyers on both sides failed to agree on the level of compensation for the film, which was owned by the Zapruder family but held in storage by the National Archives. The Zapruder family had asked for $30 million; the government offered $1 million.
Â"Today's decision by the arbitration panel secures the original Zapruder film for the public and guarantees that it will be preserved in the National Archives, where it belongs,Â" David W. Ogden, acting assistant attorney general for the Civil Division, said in a statement.
Â"The resolution of these issues ensures that this evidence of one of the most tragic events in American history will be protected for scholarly and research uses,Â" Ogden said.
The government has to compensate the Zapruder family because the Assassination Records Review Board in 1997 declared the film the permanent possession of the people of the United States.
The Zapruder family had said the film should be valued like the works of Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh or pop artist Andy Warhol whose Â"Orange MarilynÂ" silkscreen of Marilyn Monroe sold for $17.3 million last year.
Government appraisers had said that without projection, the Zapruder film was a strip of celluloid wound around a plastic reel. They said that when Sotheby's auction house in New York sold 1,200 items from the estate of former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy in 1996, the highest amount paid for any one item was $1.4 million for an antique French desk where President Kennedy signed the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
In a decision that can't be appealed, the arbitrators decided that the film was worth $16 million. That does not include the copyright, which, at least for now, will be retained by the family.
Mark Zaid, attorney for the Assassination Archives and Research Center, a nonprofit organization that maintains one of the largest private collections of records on the assassination, spoke with CBS This Morning Co-Anchor Thalia Assuras.
Â"Right now, all that is at issue is the film itself, the physical copy of the film, which has been in the archives for 21 years and it wasnÂ't going to leave the archives," says Zaid. "The copyright is not an issue. So what weÂ're going to see is millions of dollars paid to the Zapruder family for the film, but the family will control its use.Â"
The family says it wants to maintain the filmÂ's copyright to make sure it doesnÂ't go into the public domain.
Â"If it is in the public domain, it means just that,Â" says Zaid. Â"Anyone can do whatever they want. You can see coffee cups with the Zapruder film footage of President Kennedy being killed on the coffee cup, on place mats. Nobody wanted to see tat. What we wanted to see is legitimate use of the film by CBS, by other networks, by documentary filmmakers, who I represented.Â"
ThatÂ's not possible now because the family controls the film. The Zapruders have said, though, that whatever assets they receive through the copyright will be donated to charity.
Â"For years the Zapruder family said it would donate to the government or execute deed of gift or something along those lines that would facilitate use of the film,Â" says Zaid. Â"HasnÂ't happened yet ... actions speak louder than words.Â"
Zapruder, a dress manufacturer, cried when he told investigators in July 1964 of how he filmed the assassination while standing on a concrete abutment along the route of the president's motorcade through Dallas.
Through the lens of his Bell & Howell movie camera, Zapruder said he heard a shot and saw Kennedy lean over and grab his left chest.
Zapruder added, Â"I was still shooting the pictures until he (Kennedy) got under the underpass. I don't even know how I did it. ... I was walking back toward my office and screaming, `They killed him! They killed him! They killed him!Â'Â"