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The Statue of Liberty in Vegas (left) and the original in New York (right) with the USPS Lady Liberty stamp in question (middle) (images courtesy Meredith P’s Flickrstream and Celso Flores’s Flickrstream, stamp courtesy USPS)

Sculptor Robert Davidson was awarded $3,554,946.95 in royalties plus interest by US Court of Federal Claims over the US Postal Service’s illegal use of an image of his work. The copyright infringement lawsuit focuses on the image of Lady Liberty that the USPS believed was of the original monument in New York harbor but it was in reality an image of sculptor Robert Davidson’s kitschy Statue of Liberty replica at Las Vegas’s New York New York hotel.

USPS attorneys argued the artist’s design was too similar to the original for him to claim copyright, but the court filing explains that Davidson feels his version of the famous statue is “more contemporary.”

Explaining in the court documents his process for sculpting the Vegas sculpture, Davidson said:

Well, I felt since this was going to be for a new hotel in Las Vegas, I felt it just needed to be a little more appropriate for the hotel. I knew that the facade of the hotel would look similar to the skyline of New York, but it wouldn’t duplicate it. Everything is out of proportion. … It was just a feel. And I just thought that this needed a little more modern, a little more contemporary face, definitely more feminine, just something that I thought was more appropriate for Las Vegas.

Davidson is also responsible for the Joan of Arc at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas and a Mount Rushmore-styled sculpture featuring Dudley Do-Right characters at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida,” according to the court document.

The USPS sold 4.9 billion of the Lady Liberty stamps, amounting to just over $2.1 billion in sales, and $70,969,419 million in profit. The USPS had paid Getty Image $1,500 to license the image.

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

4 replies on “US Postal Service Ordered to Pay Artist $3.5M For Copyright Infringement”

  1. Wait a minute. This article begs a little depth. OK, Davidson deserves compensation but the real story seems to be somewhere in the licensing lineage. What was the nature of the license that was purchased? Besides, who took the photograph and sold it to Getty? An inquiring mind wants to know.

    1. This has been a years-long issue, so we didn’t feel the need to rehash as those details. The court docs, which are linked, has some more info: “Mr. McCaffrey selected the photograph of plaintiff’s creation for use on the new stamp. In June 2010, he purchased from Getty on behalf of the Postal Service a nonexclusive three-year license for Mr. [Raimund] Linke’s photograph, which authorized USPS to print over one million copies of the image. PX 57 (Getty license agreement). USPS paid Getty $1,500 for the license.”

      1. Surely then it should be Getty that gets sued for selling an image that wasn’t even his?

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