In March of 2011, The U.S. Postal Service was notified the stamp with the image of Lady Liberty they issued, was not the image of Lady Liberty standing majestically in New York harbor, but that of a replica standing in front of the “New York, New York” hotel in Las Vegas. Oops! But they were pretty happy with the picture, so chose to ignore that fact and ultimately stopped printing that particular stamp a few years later.
When the artist of the hotel statue, Robert Davidson, realized the stamp image was actually his creation, he asked for royalties, but since the replica was a copy of the famous statute, the postal service argued the statue (and its image) wasn’t entitled to copyright protection. Davidson stated his replica was not just a copy and that he had altered the features of the sculpture, different from the original. One can actually see the differences and ultimately the dispute ended up in court, which sided with Davidson. Although he was asking for a percentage of all the stamps sold, the court awarded him 5% of the value of stamps (about $70 mm) which translates into approximately $3.5mm. Not bad considering the fact that most artists receive only about $5,000 for their work.
P.S. Since the image was in Vegas, it’s fitting the question was asked on the 7th and the answer on the 11th . . After all 7-11 are pretty lucky – at least for one sculptor!