But in 2014, Francis Baille, another cousin of Maier’s, sued the Estate to be named as a beneficiary. The lawsuit cast doubt on who should control the Estate, leading a probate court to appoint the Cook County Public Administrator to supervise the estate. Goldstein, and likely other owners of Maier’s works, at that time received notice from Maier’s estate that they were attempting to discover and recover assets owned by the estate. Meanwhile, the probate court has yet to determine Maier’s legitimate heir.
with the estate in 2016, though the terms of the settlement remain confidential. Goldstein took a bolder approach in dealing with the estate. In late 2014, after being contacted by the administrator on behalf of the estate, Goldstein abruptly sold
much of his collection of Maier’s negatives to a collector in Canada, intentionally
complicating the estate’s investigation of his potentially infringing activities. In particular, the Maier estate would want to review the negatives to determine those prints that were infringing reproductions. In an interview referenced in a recent complaint, Goldstein has maintained that he “would cut [his] wrists” before cooperating with the County Administrator.
Who Gets to Profit
Goldstein maintains that his skillful printmaking and talented staff are an added value, such that providing the estate with the income from his sales of Maier’s work would unjustly enrich the estate. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune his attorney articulated this sentiment, saying, “how fortunate it is that this stuff fell into the hands of people who actually knew what to do with it...Otherwise it might still be in storage somewhere.”
While a fair statement, it carries little legal weight. Copyright law does not recognize Goldstein’s contribution as a “new work” that would allow him to sell the pieces. The probate court has also disagreed with Goldstein’s argument. In 2016 it dismissed a counterclaim from Goldstein, who argued that the estate would receive “unjust enrichment” by payment resulting from his commercialization of the works because his actions had created the value in connection with the copyrighted works. After failing to come to terms with the estate, the Cook County Administrator sued Goldstein for copyright infringement. The administrator alleged that Goldstein had generated “up to $500,000 per year in annual revenue from print sales and other infringing activities.”