According to the Washington Post, the United States Postal Service (USPS) falsely assumed that an image of the Statue of Liberty obtained from the online image library Getty Images was in the public domain. The USPS used the image of Lady Liberty for a popular “forever” stamp in 2010. A keen-eyed stamp collector noticed an out of place, colored rectangle on the center spike of Lady Liberty’s crown. Further comparisons of the stamp to photographs of Lady Liberty revealed other more subtle differences such as the overly-defined eyes and brows. Upon issuing the stamp, the USPS sent out a press release stating “The statue, located on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, was designed by French sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi.”
It turns out that the stamp depicted the half-sized replica Statue of Liberty in Las Vegas, NV, sculpted by Robert S. Davidson; however, by this time the stamp was a popular commodity. After realizing their error, the USPS stated that they “would have selected this photograph anyway.” This presupposes that there are marketable differences in the Las Vegas and New York statues. The USPS then continued to issue the stamp, selling roughly 4 billion copies.
Robert S. Davidson is now suing the USPS for knowingly committing copyright infringement by continuing to print the stamp. “Defendants, through the USPS, determined that it was in their financial best interest to continue to infringe upon Davidson’s rights, as the cost to discontinue the infringing activated exceeded the marginal cost of royalties that they knew or should have known were owing” according to Davidson’s attorneys.
Davidson’s case is not uncommon. A federal court recently ruled in favor of a sculptor who designed a Korean War Memorial used on a USPS stamp without the artist’s permission. He received $685,000 and 10 percent of sales.
If an individual or organization is using derivatives of your work, or distributing or displaying your work in public without your permission, contact us so we can help you recover monetary damages for the infringement. We will stop the production and sale of materials that are rightfully yours. Attorney Robert G. Klein has over 25 years of intellectual property experience, aggressively defending victims of copyright infringement. Contact us for more information about your rights and options for immediate action. For a confidential consultation, call today at (323) 653-3900.
[Did You Know: The total worth of US intellectual property is roughly $5 trillion.]
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