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The Postal Service’s $3.5 million mistake

A judge has ordered the U.S. Postal Service to pay $3.5 million to the sculptor of a Statue of Liberty replica at the New-York-New York casino-resort in Las Vegas after an image of the replica was mistakenly used on a stamp. | AP file photo

It’s a mistake that’s costing the U.S. Postal Service $3.5 million — the Statue of Liberty Forever stamps released in 2010 didn’t actually show New York’s Lady Liberty.

The photograph featured in the stamp design actually shows a Statue of Liberty replica outside the New York-New York casino hotel in Las Vegas. Stamps with the Las Vegas image were in circulation for at least three months before the Postal Service realized the mistake — 3 billion were printed. The Postal Service found the photograph on a stock image site, and defended its decision to use it.

“We really like the image and are thrilled that people have noticed in a sense,” a USPS spokesman told CNN in 2011. “It’s something that people really like. If you ask people in Vegas, they’re saying, ‘Hey, That’s great. That’s wonderful.’ It’s certainly injected some excitement into our stamp program.”

The replica’s sculptor Robert Davidson didn’t share the sentiment. He sued the government for copyright infringement, and a judge ruled in his favor.

Davidson’s attorneys argued his version of Lady Liberty is unmistakably different from the original, because it is more “fresh-faced,” “sultry” and even “sexier.” Postal Service attorneys said the versions were too similar to notice any differences. The Postal Service made $70 million in profit from the stamp, which was retired in 2014.

Federal Judge Eric Bruggink said the Las Vegas statue was an original design and ordered the Postal Service to pay $3.5 million to Davidson.

Postal Service spokesman Dave Partenheimer said in an email that the agency was reviewing the decision and would comment “if and when appropriate.”