There’s a good chance you’ve seen the United States Postal Service Lady Liberty stamp. Perhaps you thought this was a picture of the Statue of Liberty. It turns out, however, it was actually a picture of a sculptor’s version of the Statue of Liberty. Because of this technicality, a judge just ruled that the USPS owes this sculptor millions of dollars.
First, a little background. Robert S. Davidson made a replica of the Statue of Liberty that lives in front of the New York-New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. When the USPS came out with a new stamp in 2011, some experts noticed that the image used seemed to be of Davidson’s hotel piece and not of the actual Statue of Liberty. The Post Office even owned up to the mistake.
Davidson subsequently sued the Post Office, claiming that his piece of art was unique and different from the original Statue of Liberty. And a judge agreed. “We are satisfied that plaintiff succeeded in making the statue his own creation, particularly the face,” the judge declared last week. “A comparison of the two faces unmistakably shows that they are different.” The ruling goes on, “Having determined that the face of plaintiff’s sculpture is distinct, original, and protected, we find that defendant’s use was infringing.”
In short, because the USPS mistakenly used an image of Davidson’s work and not the actual Statue of Liberty, the organization owes the artist royalties: $3,554,946.95 in royalties, plus interest, to be exact.
This is one way to become rich by being a replica artist, I suppose.