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US Postal Service Owes Artist US$3.5 Million Over Unauthorized Use Of His Work
By Mikelle Leow, 05 Jul 2018
Image via Shutterstock
The US Postal Service (USPS) has been demanded by the Court of Federal Claims to pay sculptor Robert Davidson a total of US$3,554,946.95 in royalties plus interest because it featured his work in a popular stamp design without his permission.
The USPS had used an image showing Davidson’s replica of the ‘Lady Liberty’ because it was allegedly under the impression that the sculpture was the real ‘Statue of Liberty’.
Davidson’s statue was created for, and now resides at, the New York New York hotel in Las Vegas.
The postal agency argued that the artwork bore too many similarities with the original sculpture for it to be copyrighted, but Davidson insisted that his interpretation is a “more contemporary” version that was inspired by a photo of his mother-in-law and has gentler facial features.
The artist detailed in court documents, “[S]ince 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… 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.”
USPS explained that it chose the design because it had a certain “appeal” that made it distinguishable from “workhouse” stamps. It realized why in 2011, but did not contact Davidson to enquire about how he would want to be reimbursed for the appearance of his creation in the now-iconic stamp.
The agency went on to sell nearly five billion ‘Lady Liberty’ stamps, which added up to over US$2.1 billion in revenue and nearly US$71 million in profit. Further, it had paid Getty Images US$1,500 to license the image.
[via Hyperallergic, images via various sources]
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