Davidson v. United States

2018 U.S. Claims LEXIS 801 (2018)

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Davidson v. United States

United States Court of Federal Claims
2018 U.S. Claims LEXIS 801 (2018)

Facts

In 1996, Robert Davidson (plaintiff), a sculptor, completed a replica of the Lady Liberty statue in New York for a casino. The replica largely copied the original statue, but Davidson intentionally altered the face of Lady Liberty to create a softer, more feminine look, which was based on a photograph of his mother-in-law. Indeed, the differences in facial features between the replica and original were plainly visually observable. In 2008, the United States Postal Service (defendant) sought to replace the image on its Forever Stamp. The Postal Service wanted to use a patriotic icon for its stamp, and Terry McCaffrey oversaw choosing the new image. Ultimately, McCaffrey selected what he believed to be a photo of the face of the Lady Liberty statue in New York for the new Forever Stamp. In reality, the photo selected was a picture of Davidson’s replica. McCaffrey purchased a license to use the image from Getty Images on behalf of the Postal Service. McCaffrey made no alterations to the photo other than sizing and cropping it to fit on a postage stamp. After the stamp was released for sale, the Postal Service learned that the photo was of the replica. One Postal Service employee wrote that it was “quite apparent” that the photo was of the replica after looking at the photo. Additionally, several other employees reacted positively to the stamp because it was different from the 23 other Lady Liberty stamps. After learning of the use of his photo, Davidson filed a copyright application for the sculpture, which was granted in 2013. Davidson filed an action against the Postal Service for copyright infringement.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Bruggink, J.)

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