In Brief

US Postal Service Ordered to Pay Artist $3.5M For Copyright Infringement

A case of mistaken artwork has cost the US Postal Service millions of dollars.

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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