Two years ago the United States Postal Service admitted it made a huge mistake by issuing a “Forever” stamp featuring the Statue of Liberty. Not that Lady Liberty isn’t the perfect subject for a stamp, but because the agency used an image of a replica sculpture from a Las Vegas Casino. Back then it was all “shrug, everyone likes it so we’ll keep it.” Here is where what goes around appears to be coming around.
When the USPS realized it wasn’t the original Lady in New York Harbor, it said it would “reexamine” its “processes” so it wouldn’t happen again. But it also figured hey, this is going well and is so popular that the USPS “would have selected this photograph anyway.”
It’s been using that image since, selling about 4 billion copies of the stamp, which is still in circulation, points out the Washington Post. So it might have a hard time using the “oops” defense now that the sculptor is suing for copyright infringement.
In the lawsuit, the artist claims that his sculpture is what made that stamp so popular, as it “brought a new face to the iconic statue — a face which audiences found appeared more ‘fresh-faced,’ ‘sultry’ and ‘even sexier’ than the original.”
Despite the fact that the USPS knew what it was doing was wrong, claims the lawsuit, those stamps kept rolling out without asking the sculptor for the rights to print it.
“Defendants, through the USPS, determined that it was in their financial best interest to continue to infringe upon [the artist’s] rights, as the cost to discontinue the infringing activity exceeded the marginal cost of royalties that they knew or should have known were owing,” the lawsuit claimed.
It’s unclear what damages he wants but last September a federal court awarded a sculptor who designed the Korean War Memorial $685,000 in damages after the USPS used a photo of it on a stamp without permission.
Considering the cash struggles currently weighing down the agency, this could be yet another ding to its already low coffers.
Sculptor sues Postal Service over mistaken Lady Liberty stamp [Washington Post]