Famous Copyright Case. Lady Liberty.

Copyright Law provides that the owner of a copyright has several exclusive rights in their copyright protected content. Among those rights are the rights to reproduce, to display, and to distribute your copyright protected work. The law also provides that anyone who violates one of those exclusive rights is potentially subject to a claim of copyright infringement. Among the exceptions are if the user has permission (a license to use), the work is no longer protected by copyright (in the public domain), or the use falls within the Fair Use Doctrine.  Anyone can be an infringer, including the United States Postal Service (the “U.S. Postal Service”). One famous copyright case involved the U.S. Postal Service’s use of an artist’s original creative rendition of the Statue of Liberty.

In 2010, the U.S. Postal Service printed the wrong Lady Liberty graphic on billions of Forever stamps.
Instead of using the original 19th-century version, the U.S. Postal Service accidentally printed a more “fresh-faced” Lady Liberty stamp based on the creative design of sculptor Robert S. Davidson.  The U.S. Postal Service mistakenly used the wrong image to copy.  Now a federal court has ruled that the post office must pay the replica’s sculptor $3.5 million for violating his copyright.

Willful Infringer U.S. Postal Service?

Immediately claiming that the government entity had no permission to use his work, nor was the Fair Use Doctrine applicable, Mr. Davidson filed a copyright infringement lawsuit.  Furthermore, the lawsuit claimed that the U.S. Postal Service continued to use his creative content even after being placed on notice. The federal court ruled in favor of Mr. Davidson to the tune whopping tune of USPS to pay $3.5 million .

So now we know why our stamps continue to increase in price, even though the service does not improve–law suits. Don’t blame the artist. He is a hard working creative person. Blame the U.S. Postal Service for taking what doesn’t belong to it, without permission. Now, we all have to pay.

Francine D. Ward
Attorney-At-Law, Author, Speaker

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