Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
The Copyright Act specifically protects pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works. 17 U.S.C.S. § 102(a)(5). These works must be original. 17 U.S.C.S. § 102(b). The Copyright Act protects the form but not the mechanical or utilitarian aspects of artistic craftsmanship. 17 U.S.C.S. § 101. Plaintiff must prove a valid copyright, that it was infringed, and his damages.
Plaintiff fabricated a replica of the Statue of Liberty on the grounds of the New York-New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas in 1996. He applied for and obtained a copyright for the replica in 2013, too late for the statutory presumption of validity. It was also undisputed that the Postal Service used a photograph of that work on a stamp released in December 2010 without permission or attribution. Plaintiff was seeking compensation for that use under 28 U.S.C. § 1498(b) (2012). Defendant answered that plaintiff’s work was too similar to the original in New York Harbor and that the government’s use copied nothing original to plaintiff.
Was plaintiff’s statue sufficiently original to be afforded copyright protection?
The court held that the plaintiff’s statue, although invoking an existing world-famous statue, was an original, creative work, and as such was the subject of a valid copyright registration. The court noted that all of the testimony revolved around the two faces and whether the Las Vegas lady's face was different. Having found that it was, the conclusion that defendant United States' use infringed was inescapable. On balance, defendant had not proven its use to have been fair. Moreover, the court held that the plaintiff proved its entitlement to actual damages of $3,554,946.95, plus interest.