What Things Are Illegal to Photocopy?

Written by kristy barkan
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What Things Are Illegal to Photocopy?
Copying items and documents for non-fraudulent personal use is generally permissible. (copy machine image by Mat Hayward from Fotolia.com)

According to the U.S. Secret Service, making photocopies of certain items can land you in prison for up to 15 years. When photocopying, be aware of what items have legal restrictions placed on them. This will allow you to avoid potentially serious consequences such as lawsuits, fines and jail time.

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Paper Money

During the Civil War, nearly one-third of all U.S. currency may have been counterfeit, according to the Secret Service. The United States government invests a lot of time and effort into preventing counterfeiting, so the laws regarding photocopying money are strict and specific. Colour copies of currency must be less than three-fourths or more than one and one-half of the original size of the bill. Photocopies must also be one-sided, and you must destroy all negatives, plates and digital files of the bill after making a copy. Any copies of U.S. paper money that do not follow these guidelines are against the law.

What Things Are Illegal to Photocopy?
When it comes to making photocopies of cash, it's best to err on the side of caution. (Cash image by Greg Carpenter from Fotolia.com)

Postage Stamps

It's illegal to make colour copies of uncanceled U.S. and foreign postage stamps unless the copies are smaller than three-fourths or more than one and one-half the size of the original stamp. Black and white copies of uncanceled postage stamps are legal to make in any size.

What Things Are Illegal to Photocopy?
Cancelled U.S. and foreign stamps are fine to copy in any colour or size. (collection of old postage stamps from the world image by jonnysek from Fotolia.com)

U.S. Treasury Checks

It is against the law to reproduce U.S. Treasury checks in colour, and the United States government specifically prints them with a low-density ink that makes them difficult to photocopy. It is permissible to copy U.S. Treasury checks in black and white as long as the copies are less than three-quarters or greater than one-and-one-half times the size of the original check.

What Things Are Illegal to Photocopy?
U.S. Treasury checks are printed with a secret image that is not visible to a copy machine. (photocopieuse 1 image by Nathalie P from Fotolia.com)

Copyrighted Works

Photocopying a copyrighted book, article or work of art is against the law unless you are using it for a reason that falls under the definition of "fair use." Legal reasons for reproducing copyright-protected works include news reporting, teaching, and academic research, but each use must meet the fair use guidelines. If you make copies of an item that is protected by copyright, the copyright owner could sue you for damages.

What Things Are Illegal to Photocopy?
Photocopying works of art can violate U.S. copyright law. (painting image by Dmitri MIkitenko from Fotolia.com)

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