Who owns the rights to the Zapruder film?

During our visit to Dallas last week, my wife and I visited the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealay Plaza, located in the same building and same floor where Lee Harvey Oswald, allegedly acting alone, shot President John F. Kennedy. (I say “allegedly” because, as many exhibits in this museum show, the conclusions of the Warren Commission are contested and full of holes.) At the museum shop, I picked up a copy of “Twenty-Six Seconds: A Personal History of the Zapruder Film” by Alexandra Zapruder, the grand-daughter of Abraham Zapruder, the man who unwittingly filmed the assassination on his home movie camera on that fateful day. Suffice it to say, I am already up page 140! It turns out that Miss Zapruder’s grand-father had sold the exclusive rights to his home movie to Life Magazine for $150,000.00 a few days after the assassination. The full legal history of the Zapruder film is even more fascinating, for in 1975 Life sold the rights to the film back to the Zapruder family for $1! (As a further aside, I also recommend Brian Frye’s excellent essay on the Zapruder film, available here via SSRN.)

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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1 Response to Who owns the rights to the Zapruder film?

  1. Reblogged this on prior probability and commented:

    I am interrupting my second series of blog posts on “self-ownership” to report that I have finished reading “Twenty-Six Seconds: A Personal History of the Zapruder Film,” and I highly recommend this book. I learned many new things about this infamous film but the most surprising thing I learned is how the U.S. Government decided to take ownership of the original reel of Mr Zapruder’s home movie after the Congress enacted the JFK Records Act on October 26, 1992. In fact, the last few chapters of the book explore the legal, moral, and strategic aspects of this “taking” and how the Zapruder family and the government fought over the economic valuation of the film. In brief, a government “taking” of private property requires “just compensation,” but how does one go about figuring out the monetary value of a priceless historical artifact? Suffice it to say that I loved this book so much that I will be blogging in more depth about it next week–after I complete my series on self-ownership …

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