What Things Are Illegal to Photocopy?

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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.

Paper Money

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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.

Postage Stamps

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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.

U.S. Treasury Checks

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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.

Copyrighted Works

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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.

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