What's Wrong With This Stamp?

DragonflyDC via Wikimedia Commons // Fair Use
DragonflyDC via Wikimedia Commons // Fair Use / DragonflyDC via Wikimedia Commons // Fair Use

What could possibly be controversial about putting the Statue of Liberty on a stamp? Nothing, assuming you use the correct Lady Liberty's visage.

If you look closely at this example, however, you might notice that the statue on this stamp looks a bit more refreshed than the wise and weather-worn woman who has stood watch over Upper New York Bay for nearly 130 years. That's because the Liberty pictured on the stamp is actually a photo of the one who has stood watch over the New York-New York Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas since 1997. So while she may be welcoming the tired and the poor, it’s because they’ve been up all night playing craps as opposed to spending months on a boat in search of a better life.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The United States Postal Service believed the photo they chose for a 2010 “Forever” stamp depicted the original sculpture, and only realized the mistake after a collector alerted Linn’s Stamp News to the error. The Post Office basically shrugged it off, saying they would have selected the photo anyway because the design was ideal for their needs.

That statement came back to haunt them in 2013, when the sculptor of the New York-New York Liberty sued the Postal Service for copyright infringement, alleging that they sold billions of stamps based on his design even after they realized the error. At the time, the USPS refused to comment on the litigation. But based on precedent that awarded the sculptor of the Korean War Memorial $685,000 after its image was used on a stamp without permission, the agency probably had to pay up.