‘Lady Liberty’ Stamp Costs U.S. Postal Service $3.5 Million

July 3, 2018, 1:33 PM UTC

Philatelists, people who collect stamps, love it when a stamp contains an error. But the latest slip up from the U.S. Postal Service comes with a hefty price tag.

A federal claims court judge has ruled the USPS owes $3.5 million for reproducing a sculptor’s work on the Lady Liberty forever stamp without permission. And if that’s not embarrassing enough, the Statue of Liberty featured on the stamp isn’t based in New York, it’s part of the New York-New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

File photo shows a replica of the Statue of Liberty in front of the New York-New York hotel and casino in Las Vegas
A replica of the Statue of Liberty is pictured in front of the New York-New York hotel and casino in Las Vegas, Nevada on July 6, 2007.Steve Marcus — Reuters
Steve Marcus — Reuters

The mix-up, which postal officials admitted to some time ago, came about when stamp designers called up a stock image of the Statue of Liberty and didn’t realize it wasn’t the original. Even when the flaw was pointed out, the stamp wasn’t changed.

Robert S. Davidson, who created the reproduction of the iconic statue for the casino, sued the Postal Service in 2013. Last week, the judge sided with him and ordered the post office to pay the damages of $3,554,946.95 (plus interest) before July 27.

“We are satisfied that plaintiff succeeded in making the statue his own creation, particularly the face,” wrote Judge Eric Bruggink. “A comparison of the two faces unmistakably shows that they are different. … Mr. Davidson’s statue, although invoking an existing world-famous statue, is an original, creative work, and as such is the subject of a valid copyright registration.”