Judge OKs copyright settlement over Vivian Maier photos

AP News
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Posted: May 27, 2016 12:32 PM

CHICAGO (AP) — A judge has approved a settlement in a legal tussle over copyrights to photos from the 1950s onward shot by a Chicago nanny profiled in an Oscar-nominated documentary.

Cook County Probate Judge Mary Ellen Coghlan issued her approval order Thursday after meeting privately with John Maloof, who owns more than 90 percent of the film Vivian Maier left behind when she died in 2009.

Maloof also co-directed the documentary "Finding Vivian Maier."

The Chicago Tribune reports (http://trib.in/1WQrDKX ) that Coghlan ordered the settlement sealed from the public to protect ongoing negotiations with other owners of Maier's work.

The settlement ends what had been a highly publicized stalemate between Maloof and the county that began nearly two years ago when a lawyer from Virginia filed papers in probate court claiming Maloof was violating copyright law by profiting off of Maier's work.

Maloof has said that resolving the copyright issue will clear obstacles to exhibiting and selling the images more widely.

"I think this is a monumental success for the archive," he said.

The public administrator's office, which is overseeing Maier's estate because she left no will, said in a brief statement that it was pleased with the agreement and looks "forward to a continuing collaboration with Mr. Maloof in promoting Ms. Maier's remarkable work."

Maloof bought a box full of Maier's negatives at auction for $400 from a repossessed storage locker in 2007. Maloof traced her whereabouts in Chicago just days after the enigmatic Maier died penniless in 2009 at age 83.

The more than 150,000 photographs Maier took in her spare time in Chicago and New York became a sensation, as her intimate and often-gritty photography focused on everyday people, rich and poor, captured the flavor of a bygone era.

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Information from: Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com