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April 25, 2011

Korean War memorial sculptor wins and loses at the same time

Famed sculptor Frank Gaylord has won the largest-ever award from the Post Office for use of a copyrighted image on a stamp. Unfortunately for him, this is still far from what he wanted.

In a new decision, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims awarded Gaylord $5,000 for the Post Office's issuance of a 37-cent postage stamp commemorating the 50th anniversary of the armistice of the Korean War. The stamp depicted some of the stainless steel soldier sculptures that are part of the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Gaylord sculpted nineteen soldiers in formation, known as “The Column," that were photographed as the basis for the stamp. A federal appellate court agreed with Gaylord that the Post Office infringed on his copyright beyond what's allowed under fair use. Then the question became, what is Gaylord owed?

Gaylord sought $3,024,376.20 based upon a ten percent royalty rate applied to $30.2 million in revenues that the Postal Service received from stamp sales and non-stamp merchandise sales. The Post Office countered with $750.

In the decision dated April 22, Judge Thomas Wheeler noted that the Post Office is prohibited from paying royalties and limited Gaylord's share to $5,000.


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So, when the government rips you off, they only have to pay a pittance?

I hope Frank Gaylord appeals and gets justice.

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"Suits & Sentences" is a legal affairs blog written by Michael Doyle, a reporter for McClatchy's Washington Bureau. He was a Knight Journalism Fellow at Yale Law School, where he earned a Master of Studies in Law; he also earned a Masters in Government from The Johns Hopkins University with a thesis on the Freedom of Information Act. He teaches journalism as an adjunct instructor at The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs.

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