Thursday, July 12, 2018

Taking Liberty, A $3.5m copyright stamp of mistaken identity

Putting the Status of Liberty on a US stamp seems like a no brainer, send someone out to take an original picture of miss liberty, stamp it and run. Or, get full rights to a picture, modify it to your hearts content -- maybe make her happier to be holding up so well after most of a century in the New York weather! (Maybe add a Mono Lisa Smile!?)... But, often, copyrights may not be as simple as they appear.
Rick Kurnit has a great blog about a copyright for the Status of Liberty stamp on Lexology.
Here's the backstory. The US Post Office got a picture of a Status of Liberty, but not THE Status of Liberty. It is a picture of the replica (although Lady Liberty is smaller, mind you) in Las Vegas.
"Robert Davidson, the artist who created the model, upon seeing the stamp (after his wife came home from the post office and exclaimed 'they put our statue on a stamp') registered the copyright in his version of the statue and sued."
After 5 years and a 2 week trial... Davidson won $3.5m+. That's a lot of forever stamps. Talk about making it BIG in Vegas!
Kurnit takes the time to make this a learning moment by discussion the use of copyrighted materials, and even derivative works.
You would kind of think that anything publicly owned and publicly viewable link the Statue of Liberty would be, well, public domain, including the photos thereof. Not so. (Generally, I own my photos, and the derivative works of those photos.)