Trumbull officials have temporarily removed artwork displayed at the public library over concerns that the use of Mother Teresa's image in the painting infringes on copyright.
The painting, which Dr. Richard Resnick donated to the library, shows Mother Teresa and other women marching, holding signs that say messages including "Planned Parenthood," "Mission of Charity," "Feed the Poor," "Remember The Ladies," "Hospital Reform" and "Right to Vote," among others.
It's one of 33 paintings by the same artist that has been displayed for several months as part he the library's "Great Minds Collection."
“What the picture is supposed to depict of course is not support of any of the views expressed in the painting, but rather, the painting is supposed to highlight the importance of various women in our society,” said Michael London, a spokesman for Resnick.
Independent organizations have complained that the inclusion of Mother Teresa's image in the painting is "potential copyright infringement," according to Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst.
The town opted to remove the painting because the library lacks a written agreement with Resnick to protect the town against "any potential liability" from the copyright violation allegation, Herbst said.
“After learning that the Trumbull Library Board did not have the proper written indemnification for the display of privately-owned artwork in the Town’s library, and also being alerted to allegations of copyright infringement and unlawful use of Mother Teresa’s image, upon the advice of legal counsel, I can see no other respectful and responsible alternative than to temporarily suspend the display until the proper agreements and legal assurances are in place,” Herbst said in a written statement.
Herbst said the move is a precaution to protect the town from any legal action that could "cost Trumbull taxpayers in the long run," he said.
But attorney Bruce Elstein, who is representing Resnick, said he doesn't believe there's any legal implication of continuing to display the artwork.
"Our initial research has shown that there is a doctrine of ‘Fair Use’ which allows a party to depict even someone of a public nature when it’s not designed for any commercial purpose," he explained.
Elstein speculates that the controversy may have more to do with Catholic leaders' recent objections to Mother Teresa being depicted alongside a woman holding a "Planned Parenthood" sign.
The town plans to implement the same policy for other artwork displayed in municipal buildings, according to Herbst.
“We’re in the process of working with our town attorneys to take corrective action to make sure in the future if artwork is hung in the library it will need a written agreement approved by the town to avoid issues like this coming up in the future,” said Herbst.
Herbst did not name the organizations that took issue with the painting.