New USPS rules could change what’s allowed on American computer-generated postage

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.

Stamps.com, based in Santa Monica, was the first company approved to offer the service, which is called NetStamps.

This January, however, the USPS proposed new rules regarding “customized postage products” in the Federal Register, the daily journal of the U.S. government.

ONGOING LAWSUIT

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.”

DISTINCT SERVICES

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:

  1. 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;
  2. Any depiction of alcohol; tobacco; controlled substances, including but not limited to marijuana; gambling; or firearms or other weapons;
  3. Any depiction of political, religious, violent or sexual content, including content not suitable for minors; or
  4. 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:

  1. Commercial means intended for no other purpose than the sale of goods or services in commerce.
  2. 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.”

For more information, visit federalregister.gov/documents/2017/01/05/2016-31856/revisions-to-the-requirements-for-authority-to-manufacture-and-distribute-postage-evidencing-systems.

Keep up to date with the philatelic community

Sign up to receive our newsletter.

Canadian Stamp News

Canada

Canadian Stamp News is Canada's premier source of information about stamp collecting and related fields.

Although we cover the entire world of philatelics, the majority of our readers are Canadian, and we concentrate on the unique circumstances surrounding collecting in our native land.

Send Us Your Event

Running an event? Send it to us and we will display it on Canadian Stamp News!

Submit Event →

Subscribe To 26 Issues For Just $47.99/year

Subscribe today to receive Canada's premier stamp publication. Canadian Stamp News is available in both paper and digital forms.

Subscribe Now