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Copyright Blog

Teichert Heir Seeks Declaratory Judgement Concerning Artist's Paintings

Heir alleges that paintings were conditional gifts or loans and that ownership, copyrights, and other rights were not transferred to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The art of Minerva Teichert (the "Artist") is familiar to many, especially to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the "Church"). Her prolific paintings depict scriptural scenes as well as images from Church history and the American West, and a number of them are located on Brigham Young University's campus.

On July 28, 2021, Tim Teichert ("Teichert"), grandson of Minerva and Herman Teichert and administrator of their estates, brought suit against the Church and its associated corporations, asserting that the Church had relocated and effectively taken possession of various paintings by the late Artist.

Teichert's complaint alleges that the Artist entrusted many of her paintings to various Church buildings throughout Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming during her lifetime, on condition that they be returned to the Artist, or her heirs, if the Church no longer wished to display them at their chosen locations. The complaint also states that the Artist never entered into any written agreements with the Church to transfer legal title or other rights.

In particular, the Complaint focuses on a set of four paintings which were allegedly displayed in Church buildings in Cokeville, Wyoming, where the Artist lived for much of her life. Teichert asserts that the estates of Minerva and Herman Teichert have copyright interests in three of these paintings. Teichert attached copyright registrations for these paintings to the complaint. Teichert claims that the Church relocated these three paintings in 2020, having previously relocated the fourth in 2014.

Based on the assertions in the complaint, Teichert requests that the court "declare the rights, status, and interests these parties have in and to Minerva Teichert's paintings" in order to resolve, in favor of Teichert and the estates, questions of ownership and copyright interests in the various paintings.

The complaint was originally filed in a Wyoming state court, but the Church filed a Notice of Removal, seeking to shift the controversy to federal jurisdiction, since one of the primary focuses of the complaint is on copyright interests. An Order of Removal was subsequently granted, transferring the case to the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming.

On August 23, the Church filed a Motion for an extension of time to answer Teichert's complaint. The Motion was unopposed, and the court issued an Order granting the extension.