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USPS to pay $3.5M for Statue of Liberty stamp mix-up

By Daniel Uria
USPS to pay $3.5M for Statue of Liberty stamp mix-up
The U.S. Postal Service was ordered to pay $3.5 million to artist Robert S. Davidson for using a photo of his replica Statue of Liberty outside the New York New York Casino in Las Vegas on a series of stamps. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

July 5 (UPI) -- A federal judge ordered the U.S. Postal Service to pay an artist $3.5 million for using his recreation of the Statue of Liberty on a series of stamps.

Judge Eric Bruggink ordered the Postal Service to pay Robert S. Davidson $3,554,946.95 after the USPS used his replica Statue of Liberty -- located the New York New York Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas -- without his permission.

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The judge agreed with the prosecutor's assertion that Davidson's version of Lady Liberty "brought a new face to the iconic statue -- a face which audiences found appeared more 'fresh-faced,' 'sultry' and even 'sexier' than the original located in New York."

"A comparison of the two faces unmistakably shows that they are different," Bruggink wrote.

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Davidson sued the USPS in 2013 after it used an image of the statue's face on its 2010 "Forever" stamp series.

The USPS purchased a license to use a photo of Davidson's statue that appeared on a stock image photo service, unaware it wasn't the actual Statue of Liberty in New York.

Three months later, after about 3 billion stamps had been sold and printed, the USPS learned of the mistake but didn't alter the stamp.

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"We really like the image and are thrilled that people have noticed in a sense," a USPS spokesman said at the time. "It's something that people really like. If you ask people in Vegas, they're saying, 'Hey, That's great. That's wonderful.' It's certainly injected some excitement into our stamp program."

The stamps were discontinued in 2014 after about 4.9 billion were sold for $2.1 billion.

"For too long, the Postal Service has endeavored to ignore the rights of artists like Mr. Davidson, simply taking intellectual property with after-the-fact offers of nominal compensation," Davidson's attorney, Todd Bice, said.

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The lawsuit set out to determine whether Davidson's statue could be considered an original work, as the USPS said the statue was a replica and rendered his copyright claim invalid.

Bruggink ruled the portion of the statue featured on the stamp was definitively Davidson's original work.

"The portion used was entirely of what we consider to have been the original work contributed by Mr. Davidson," he wrote. "The government's only real defense is that its use did not particularly harm plaintiff's business as an industrial sculptor. That may be true, but we also note that it certainly did not benefit him. The Postal Service offered neither public attribution nor apology."

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