An error made by the United States Postal Service will cost it (i.e. the American taxpayers) $3.5 million. The USPS used an image of the wrong Statue of Liberty on a stamp it issued in 2010, mistaking a Las Vegas-based replica for the real Lady Liberty. Last week, federal judge Eric Bruggink sided with Robert Davidson, the replica’s creator, in saying his piece was different enough from the real thing to be protected by copyright law. Therefore, Judge Bruggink ordered the USPS to pay $3.5 million to the artist, out of the $70 million the USPS made in profit from sales of the bogus stamp.
The post office originally selected the photo by searching Getty Images, the stock-photo site, incorrectly believing it showed the real statue. It then sized and cropped the photo, fit it on a stamp, and released it to adoring philatelists in December of 2010. It wasn’t until months later, in 2011, after nearly three billion of the stamps had been printed, that a stamp collector noticed it pictured the wrong icon, leading the USPS to change the information in materials it distributed about the stamp. The USPS took no further action regarding the matter until the recent court case, where it argued that Davidson’s statue was so similar to the original Lady Liberty that it didn’t merit copyright protection.
Mr. Davidson filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against the postal service in 2013, claiming it illegally used the image of his piece. The USPS discontinued the design, dubbed the Lady Liberty Forever, in 2014, after reaping $2.1 billion from the sale of nearly 5 billion stamps. (By contrast, Davidson netted $233,000 from the creation of his casino-based statue, according to various reports). Davidson argued that his version of Lady Liberty is “sultry,” “sexier,” and more “fresh-faced” than the one France gifted to America. Well, who doesn’t want a sultrier, sexier Statue of Liberty? I say tart the bitch up and see who comes running. Though, come to think of it, aren’t “sexier” and “sultrier” at odds with “fresh-faced?” (I guess not if you prefer Mary Ann to Ginger on Gilligan’s Island).
The replica is only half the size of the actual Statue of Liberty and is surrounded by desert not water. It has more defined features, particularly its eyes and lips. Davidson claims that his mother-in-law’s face was the inspiration for the design.
Talk about a suck-up.
The USPS has made other errors in the past. It once previously put the wrong “Hope Diamond” on a stamp, mistaking the engagement ring stone of Bob Hope’s wife, Delores, for the 67-carat one once owned by King Louis XIV of France. In fact, it once put the wrong Bob Hope on a stamp, accidentally subbing Robert Q. Hope, a then 69-year-old plumber from Pierre, South Dakota, for the star of such movies as “The Road to Rio” and “The Road to Morocco.”
The French postal service, La Poste, has also proven quite fallible. Several years ago, it put the wrong Eiffel Tower on a stamp it issued, likewise falling for the half-sized Las Vegas edition. La Poste, too, honored Bob Hope with a stamp in the late 1950’s, after he starred in “Paris Holiday,” a film shot in… Paris. (And, ironically, it’s now clear that The Road to Morocco ends in France).