Professor Gerstenblith discusses who owns the copyright to Vivian Maier's photographs

Professor Patty Gerstenblith, distinguished research professor of law and director of DePaul's Center for Art, Museum & Cultural Heritage Law, was quoted extensively by the LA Times in an article examining the issues surrounding copyright to the works of photographer Vivian Maier.

Vivian Maier's photographs, many taken in Chicago in the 1950s and '60s, were discovered after her death when a box of her belongings was purchased at auction by real estate agent John Maloof. Since then, the story of Vivian Maier and her photographs has become much more complicated, as a legal battle over Maier's estate, and control over copyright to her work, has been initiated in Illinois (the state where Maier passed away).

As Professor Gerstenblith discusses in the article, the first step will be to determine who is the proper heir to the estate, which might be an issue in the Maier estate given the existence of two potential cousins in France. Professor Gerstenblith notes, "[i]n some cases, . . . heirship is more complicated because you have family that is more distantly related. This has come up in cases of Nazi looting. The claimant has to prove they are the right heir and that can be quite difficult."

This is one of the issues that the courts in Illinois will need to grapple with in resolving the Maier case.