When the Postal Service released its commemorative Statue of Liberty Forever Stamp three years ago, one astute philatelist noticed that Lady Liberty was looking a little lovelier than usual. Her hooded eyes, pouty lips, and delicately arched eyebrows didn't quite match up with the mistress that's presided over New York's "huddled masses" for generations.
And with good reason. The design for the stamp was accidentally modeled on the half-size replica at Las Vegas's New York-New York Hotel and Casino. And now, to add some real injury to that insult, the artist of Vegas Lady Liberty is suing for copyright infringement.
Last week, sculptor Robert Davidson filed in U.S. Federal Court, arguing that the Postal Service needed to pay to use his unique reworking of the famous icon. Noting that Davidson never visited New York while designing the Vegas re-imagining, the suit claims that the artist "brought a new face to the iconic statue," including a "softer, more feminine, and realistic silhouette" and a "fuller chin, a friendlier expression and pronounced cupid's bow shape of the upper lip," according to the Washington Post. The overall effect was a face that was "more 'fresh-faced,' 'sultry' and 'even sexier' than the original."
See for yourself:
A key part of this will be making the argument that the Postal Service knowingly used the image without permission. Though the initial decision to feature the wrong statue was certainly a mistake, a USPS spokesman insisted at the time of the uncovering, "We still love the stamp design and would have selected this photography anyway." It turns out that these defensive words may open them up to a lawsuit.
Davidson also has recent precedent on his side. Earlier this fall, a federal court awarded nearly $700,000 in damages, plus a percentage of future royalties, to the artist of D.C.'s Korean War Veterans Memorial after the Post Office used a photo of his work on a stamp without permission.