The U.S. Postal Service recently announced newly proposed rules regarding what images should be allowed on computer-generated stamps sold in the U.S. by various companies.
In July 2002, the Los Angeles Times reported Americans would soon be able to legally print sheets of stamps using their personal computers thanks to a system approved by the USPS. At that time, individual stamps would be printed using computer software supplied by private vendors—a process introduced in 1999 and used by nearly 400,000 registered customers in the following three years.
This January, however, the USPS proposed new rules regarding “customized postage products” in the Federal Register, the daily journal of the U.S. government.
The proposed rules come after a lawsuit by a Massachusetts artist. who accused the USPS of allowing companies that sell computer-generated stamps too much power over design approvals.
During the recent U.S. election, presidential candidates Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders were allowed to print computer-generated stamps for their campaign mail; however, artist Anatol Zukerman, of Plymouth, Mass., had his design, which would have promoted a display of his art in Washington, D.C., rejected.
U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper recently ruled Zukerman’s complaint must be addressed by the USPS rather than first being heard by the Postal Regulatory Commission.
The lawsuit isn’t mentioned in the proposal, although the amendment to the USPS Postage Evidencing Systems regulations would “add standardized requirements for the authorization to produce Customized Postage products, a Special Service approved by the Postal Regulatory Commission.”
One goal of the proposed rules is to deepen the distinction between computer-generated stamps and the USPS’ stamp program.
“Providers must not refer to customized postage products as ‘stamps’ or make any other representation tending to imply that customized postage products are related in any way to official U.S. postage stamps or to any aspect of the Postal Service philatelic program,” reads the proposal.
What’s more, § 501.21, “Eligibility Criteria,” reads:
“The Postal Service reserves the right to determine independently whether any image, text, or category of images or texts meets any of the Eligibility Criteria contained in this section. To be eligible for use in Customized Postage products, images and/or text must meet criteria established by the Postal Service, which are:
(1) Images or text must not contain:
- Any image or text the customer or provider does not have the right to use either directly or under license, including but not limited to images or text that may be the subject of third party rights such as copyright, trademarks, or rights of publicity or privacy;
- Any depiction of alcohol; tobacco; controlled substances, including but not limited to marijuana; gambling; or firearms or other weapons;
- Any depiction of political, religious, violent or sexual content, including content not suitable for minors; or
- Any depiction of any other subject matter prohibited for display under U.S. law.
(2) Images or text must be “commercial” or “social,” as defined below:
- Commercial means intended for no other purpose than the sale of goods or services in commerce.
- Social means promoting or depicting people, animals, items, or events commonly associated with friendly relations or companionship and likely to generate invitations, announcements, notices, thank you notes, RSVPs, or similar correspondence.”