A judge has ruled that the US Postal Service must pay a sculptor $3.5 million in royalties (plus interest) because they mistakenly used a photo of his sculpture of the Statue of Liberty, and not the original, on a stamp in 2011.
The artist’s name is Robert S. Davidson and he made the sculpture for the New York-New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. When experts saw the stamp and mentioned the discrepancy in 2011, USPS confessed they messed up.
Davidson proceeded to sue the postal service.
On Monday, a judge determined that Davidson’s version is indeed different from the original (in particular, he added a “sultry” quality to the face) and it looks like USPS will be paying for their mistake, big time.
The judge stated:
We are satisfied that plaintiff succeeded in making the statue his own creation, particularly the face. A comparison of the two faces unmistakably shows that they are different. Having determined that the face of plaintiff’s sculpture is distinct, original, and protected, we find that defendant’s use was infringing.
Here’s a tweet containing Davidson’s statue:
#OTD in 2010 - A bizzare mistake but one we didn't really mind here. The @USPS issued a Statue of Liberty Forever stamp, but the Lady Liberty on it was the slightly different replica from outside @NYNYVegas on the Las #Vegas Strip! Error was realized 3 months later! pic.twitter.com/eYRiaj6aDb— Clark County Nevada (@ClarkCountyNV) December 1, 2017
Twitter was ready with the jokes:
So that's why they wouldn't let me have a square of packing tape the other day. Makes sense now.— Rab (@therabbott) July 3, 2018
Send it in the form of stamps!— 2013 Champs! (@cjackson65) July 3, 2018
The differences between the real Lady Liberty and the one where artistic liberties (pun intended) were taken are subtle.
As this Twitter user noted:
What's the difference between the two?— Bert Calderón (@TheRealArcalde) December 2, 2017
Over 3.5 Million dollars, apparently. https://t.co/OOWU4XVpbp— John Stewart Street (@StreetStewart) July 3, 2018
Copyright laws can be pretty tricky, and most people don’t have a full understanding of them.
Some commenters were confused and had questions.
Here's what I don't get. If USPS bought/licensed the image from Getty...— Blue Steel Indy (@AmericasJohn) July 4, 2018
Wouldn't the liability of mixing up the statues and misrepresenting it in their inventory be entirely on Getty?
How is it not?
Others tried to supply answers at length and ad nauseam.
Check out some of the back-and-forths:
A lot of commenters were really, REALLY stuck on how the USPS was at fault when the image was from Getty:
Apparently, the USPS ran into a similar problem prior to this when they used an image of the Korean War Veterans Memorial. You’d think they’d at least learn from past mistakes.
In this case, it looks like Davidson will have an extra 3.5 million to go toward future sculptures.