10 August 2018
An error in image selection during the production of a 2010 US Statue of Liberty stamp has come back to bite the US Postal Service following a long legal battle, with the organisation being ordered to pay $3.5 million (approximately £2.64 million).
The lawsuit was filed by Las Vegas sculptor Robert Davidson following the discovery that a US Forever stamp featured a photograph of the artist’s replica version of the Statue of Liberty for the New York-New York Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip, rather than the famous New York monument, as the USPS had intended.
The judge in the trial stated in the official court files: ‘Because we find that Mr. Davidson’s work was original and because the Postal Service’s use of it was not permitted by statute, he is entitled to compensation in the amount of $3,554,946.95, plus interest.’
According to the court files, the photograph was chosen from a wide selection of images of the famous statue, and the staff member who chose the images of the Las Vegas version was under the impression the chosen photo showed the original New York monument.
It was only in March 2011 that the USPS was informed of the mistake, when ‘an individual from a stock photography company’ emailed the Postmaster General to inform him. By then, three billion copies of the stamp had been printed and the following month an internal communication confirmed that the USPS would continue to sell the stamp despite the mistake. In total 4.9 billion of the Lady Liberty stamps were sold, ‘amounting to just over $2.1 billion in sales for that stamp alone’.
Meanwhile, Robert Davidson had realsied the stamp showed his own statue when, according to the court papers: ‘his wife returned from a trip to a local post office. She had purchased a book of Forever Stamps and excitedly notified her husband that “our statue is on the stamp.”’
Speaking in court Mr Davidson said:
‘I don’t believe after the fact that they would put my name on the stamp. If my name was on the stamp, then everybody would immediately recognize that it was me. And it was just a very tough, very demanding project. And I’m very proud of her, and it’s just something I didn’t think lightly of.’
The judge eventually decided on the $3.5 million compensation figure based on a 5% royalty rate, based on total sales of approximately $70 million, the sale of philatelic products sold was also considered when calculating the final sum.