Back in 2010, the United States Postal Service (USPS) released a now-famous Statue of Liberty “forever” stamp. But it was soon discovered that the small stamp had a big problem: instead of showing the actual Statue of Liberty in New York, the selected photo shows the copyrighted replica that’s found in Las Vegas. Now a federal court has ordered that the USPS must pay $3.5 million for its mistake.
The Post Office had used Getty Images to find a suitable photo of the Statue of Liberty, and they settled on the photo by photographer Raimund Linke, not seeing that the keywords on the page clearly stated that the photo shows the replica in Vegas.
After the USPS cropped the photo and unveiled the new design in December 2010, it wasn’t until over 3 billion of the stamps were printed that a sharp-eyed stamp collector noticed that the statue in the stamp was different in appearance than the actual statue.
Once it found out about its mistake, the USPS changed its description of the stamp but continued to sell it.
Las Vegas sculptor Robert Davidson, the man who created the replica Lady Liberty that stands at the New York-New York casino-resort on the Vegas Strip, then sued the USPS in 2013 for copyright infringement. The USPS defended itself by arguing that Davidson’s statue was too similar to the real thing to be copyrightable, but discontinued the design in 2014 after selling 4.9 billion stamps.
AP reports that Federal Judge Eric Bruggink just sided with the sculptor, agreeing with his attorneys, who argued that Davidson’s statue was more “fresh-faced,” “sultry,” and “sexier.”
Bruggink has ordered that the USPS pay $3,554,946.95 (plus interest) to Davidson for infringing his copyright with the stamp, which generated a reported $70 million in profit during its run.
“As the court noted, Mr. Davidson’s artistic creation of the Las Vegas Lady Liberty is highly unique and attractive, which is what prompted the US Postal Service to select a photo of his work for the second ever Forever Stamp, over hundreds of other images,” Davidson attorney Todd Bice tells AP.
Image credits: Replica statue comparison photo by Pink Sherbet Photography and licensed under CC BY 2.0