Owning Vivian Maier

Owning Vivian Maier

The Vivian Maier story has taken an interesting turn as a potential new heir to the Maier estate has been found by a lawyer in Chicago. The future of the work of the reclusive nanny and talented street photographer is on hold as the courts decide who owns the copyright. Hit the jump for the full story.

Vivian Maier Found

Vivian Maier died with thousands of developed and undeveloped negatives in a storage locker. When the bill for the storage locker went unpaid the contents were sold at auction and one of the greatest treasures of street photography in the 20th century was discovered.

There are several owners of the negatives that make up the Vivian Maier collection. It’s largely split between Jeffery Goldstein and John Maloof (who produced the popular documentary “Finding Vivian Maier“). John Maloof went to great lengths to track down Sylvain Jaussaud, a first cousin once removed who lives in France and is believed to be Vivian’s closest surviving heir. Mr. Jaussaud was paid an undisclosed amount of money for the copyright to Vivian’s work.

John has been carefully documenting Vivian’s work and filing for US copyrights for the images in his posession. All of Maloof’s copyrights are listed as pending with the US Copyright Office.

A Tale Of Two Cousins

A Chicago lawyer named David C. Deal tracked down another cousin named Francis Baille and has filed a petition to have this man named the true heir to the Vivian Maier estate. It’s interesting to note that Maloof was aware of Mr. Baille but his genealogical research determined that Mr. Jaussaud and not Mr. Baille was the closest living heir.

The legal case to determine which cousin is Vivian Maier’s closest relative has now set in motion a process that could take years and could result in Maier’s work being pulled from gallery museum walls until the case is settled.

What’s In A Name?

It’s unclear what is motivating the prophetically named David Deal to pursue this claim. When asked if he had a financial stake in the outcome of the case he indicated that he’d be happy to break even when everything is said and done. Of course this doesn’t answer the question but definitely doesn’t say, “No.”

He says it’s simply not fair that someone other than a family member is making money from Vivian’s work. So he dug up a first cousin once removed who never met Vivian and who was entirely unaware that they were even related and convinced this person to file a copyright claim in the U.S. It’s the kind of murky claim that could end up with a lofty cash settlement for him and his client. And that’s a deal you can count on!

Is Deal justified in this case or is the whole thing entirely motivated by greed? Post your comments below!

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