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KNBC Backs Down Over Rights to Video

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The fight over who has the right to broadcast a videotape showing a Compton officer beating a youth took another bizarre twist Friday, with KNBC Channel 4 backing down from its hard-line stance that it had exclusive rights to the tape.

KNBC’s reversal was met with delight from several of its television rivals, who said the station wound up eating crow with its unusual action.

Two days ago, the station threatened to sue any news organization that used the videotape. It said it had paid $125 for exclusive worldwide rights for the tape to Maria Quintana, the mother of Felipe Soltero, the youth who was struck by the officer in the video. The threats were criticized by other television stations, whose officials said it went against the common practice of sharing exclusive material after it is aired.

However, KNBC was forced to back down Friday when an attorney informed the station that Quintana was not the legal owner of the tape, and that the video actually belonged to Libidia Vasquez, a neighbor of Quintana’s. Attorney Jim Blancarte, who represents Vasquez, said Quintana did not have any right to sell the video, shot by Vasquez’s 17-year-old son, to KNBC.

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Vasquez had sold the tape to Quintana for $60 with the understanding that she would only show it to police to get her son released from jail, Blancarte said.

He added that KNBC not only could not prohibit other organizations from showing the tape, but would have to purchase rights from Vasquez if it wanted to show the tape. He said he and Vasquez were considering several offers from organizations wishing to purchase non-exclusive rights to the video.

A KNBC representative said Friday that the station “stands by its position that it has the right” to broadcast the beating tape.

But Mark Hoffman, vice president of news, said in a statement, “In view of the enormous attention and interest the Compton beating story has generated, NBC has decided not to assert any rights or claims of exclusivity from this point forward against any media outlet that obtains rights to distribute the tape.”

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Blancarte said that possible legal action against KNBC might be taken if it continues to show the video: “Without a valid grant of rights, they will be accruing damages on an ongoing basis with each broadcast of the tape.”

Meanwhile, the CBS network and KCBS Channel 2 have purchased non-exclusive rights to the video, Blancarte said. He declined to confirm the reported $10,000 price, but said the fee is considerably more than NBC paid Quintana.


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