This lawsuit is quite unique in itself because it involves a photo center in Minneapolis, Minnesota and a deceased artist. The MPLS Photo Center in Minneapolis was sued for copyright infringement for using photos by the artist Vivian Maier who died in 2009. Vivian Maier who died at the age of 83, became famous after her death.
Vivian Maier was a Chicago based nanny whose street photography was discovered after her death. Her photographs became so famous that they were portrayed in various worldwide exhibitions and even a documentary film which led to an Oscar nomination.
After the death of Vivian, her work which included more than 1,00,00 negatives 2,700 rolls of film were auctioned off. Majority of her work was purchased by John Maloof and 10% ended up with Jeffrey Goldstein. This 10% of the work later ended up with MPLS Photo Center who was then owned by Orin and Abby Rutchick. They sponsored a show called “Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows”. The mistake here was that Orin and Abby Rutchick thought they had bought the rights to the photos from Goldstein.
Vivian died without a will or known heirs, so the city of Chicago was left to sort out her estate. Lawyers for the city sued the Photo Center alleging that it had conducted unauthorized exhibition and sales of Vivian’s work. The estate filed the lawsuit in at least seven federal jurisdictions in five states.
MPLS Photo Center finally reached a settlement on the lawsuit with the estate; the settlement amount has been kept confidential. After the settlement Orin and Abby Rutchick sold the MPLS Photo Center to Harrington who has no relation with the lawsuit.