This is a guest post by Alison M. Hall, writer and editor in the Copyright Division. It also appears in the Sept.-Oct. issue of the Library of Congress Magazine.
Of the tens of millions of creative works registered with the Copyright Office, the Statue of Liberty is one of the biggest and most famous.
French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi registered his “Statue of American Independence” on Aug. 31, 1876, submitting two photos of a model of the statue as the deposit copies. The first image shows just the model. The second is a rendering of how the statue would appear against the New York skyline on the pedestal. The pedestal also is registered with the office with architect Richard M. Hunt listed as the author.
This second image has great significance because it shows a very early version of the statue that most people today would not recognize.
In the original design, the Statue of Liberty is shown holding a broken chain and shackle in her left hand, representing freedom newly achieved. Bartholdi later made a major change to his design by placing the chain and shackle, symbolically broken by Liberty, at her feet. He then positioned the familiar tablet, inscribed “July IV, MDCCLXXVI” (July 4, 1776), in her left hand.
In the decade before the statue was assembled in New York Harbor, newspapers and magazines popularized images of it, and memorabilia proliferated. New York publisher Root and Tinker registered a color lithograph of the statue in 1883, thought to have been commissioned to raise funds to build the pedestal. The next year, the publisher registered a reissue of the same lithograph with “Low’s Jersey Lily for the Handkerchief” imprinted on the statue’s base.
The copyright on the original Statue of Liberty sculpture has expired, which means it is now in the public domain. Creators are free to use it in any way in their works.