I have seen articles in the newspaper about the new $100 bill and I
am surprised that publications are allowed to print nearly full-size
images. Aren’t there laws prohibiting this, or at least laws that
place limitations on the reproduction of currency?
U.S. laws clearly define photographs and printed reproductions of
paper money, checks, bonds, revenue stamps and securities of the
United States and foreign governments.
The Counterfeit Detection Act of 1992, Public Law 102-550,
codified in Section 411 of Title 31 of the Code of Federal
Regulations, permits color illustrations of U.S. currency, assuming
that they follow several stated rules.
The law there permits the printing, publishing or importation, or
the making or importation of the necessary plates or items for such
printing or publication, of color illustrations of U.S. paper
currency, provided that:
The illustration is a size less than 75 percent or more than 150
percent, in linear dimension, of each part of the item illustrated. In
other words, an illustration of a note can be significantly smaller or
larger than the real thing, but cannot be the same size, or close to it.
The illustration must also be one-sided.
Finally, “All negatives, plates, positives, digitized storage
medium, graphic files, magnetic medium, optical storage devices, and
any other thing used in the making of the illustration that contain an
image of the illustration or any part thereof are destroyed and/or
deleted or erased after their final use.”
The Department of the Treasury puts it in plain language on its
website: “Destroy or erase anything used in the making of the
illustration that contains an image or part of the illustration.”
In Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 504 permits black
and white reproductions of paper currency and other obligations,
provided such reproductions meet the size requirement.
Photographs, printed illustrations, motion picture film, or slides
of United States and foreign coins may be used for any purpose. In
contrast, in some other countries you must request permission in
writing before reproducing bank notes in advertising or for
educational purposes or must label an illustration with the word
SAMPLE prominently stamped across the image.
Other countries have their own restrictions on the reproduction of currency.
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing provides a useful resource
regarding selected laws involving currency at www.moneyfactory.gov/historicallegislation.html.
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