College of Law > About > News > Professor Gerstenblith discusses who owns the copyright to Vivian Maier's photographs
By Center for Art, Museum & Cultural Heritage Law /
September 23, 2014 /
Posted in: Art Museum and Cultural Heritage Law /
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
This is one of the issues that the courts in Illinois will need to grapple with in resolving the Maier case.