Money: The new plagiarism


It appears that the country of Burundi used a freelance photographer's image on their currency without permission. (If the article goes down, BoingBoing saved a side-by-side comparison for your inspection.) The article adds that

Fajack says he's talked about his case with several lawyers, editors and people experienced in photography and none of them has heard of any other infringement cases involving currency.

I guess nobody remembered that the initial design for the Euro included images taken from the book Bridges: Three Thousand Years of Defying Nature.

The theory must have been that there's no room for footnotes on a banknote. (Though the Bank of England found room for a copyright notice.)

(On a tangential note, Kazakhstan misspelled the word "bank" on their notes.)

Comments (19)
  1. AC says:

    The Euro notes have "(c) BCE ECB EZB EKT EKP 2002" on them, too.  (i.e. European Central bank)

  2. John says:

    For some reason the misspelling of "Bank" reminded me of this:

    Homer: [gasps] Look at these low, low prices on famous brand-name electronics!

    Bart: Don’t be a sap, Dad.  These are just crappy knock-offs.

    Homer: Pfft.  I know a genuine Panaphonics when I see it.  And look, there’s Magnetbox and Sorny.

  3. UK/EU notes have a (c) notice to eliminate the ‘nobody told me I couldn’t copy it’ defence. EU notes also have a funny speckled yellow pattern on it that photocopiers and color printers recognise and change the colour balance slightly on. They care a lot about people copying their artwork.

  4. Old Coder says:

    DRM would have prevented this, for sure…

  5. Harbinger says:

    Now that this bridge has been crossed, its only a matter of time before some country uses Office clipart or a Windows desktop image on their banknotes.

  6. As far as I know, it was not the word “bank”, but the word “Kazakhstan” itself. The inscription “Қазақстан Ұлттық Банкi” (Qazaqstan Ulttıq Banki, The National Bank of Kazakhstan) had a typo: the second “қ” (“q”) in “Qazaqstan” lacked a descender and was rendered as “к” (“q”). This makes a significant change to the pronunciation.

  7. Merus says:

    I still think Australia’s plastic notes with the clear window in them are the trickiest to copy. Of course, those designs are, as far as I know, original.

  8. This makes a significant change to the pronunciation.

    Yup.  I think of this everytime I see some foolish job candidate leave the accents off of "résumé" (so I’m looking at their "/rɪˈzum/")

  9. Jonathan Wilson says:

    The one thing that gets me about the US and its money is that they keep releasing all these new banknotes with the anti-counterfeiting stuff in them but it doesn’t matter because the counterfeiters will just counterfeit the old notes (of which a large enough number remain to no be suspicious)

  10. Worf says:

    Merus: Singapore also copied the plastic money concept from Australia – quite neat.

    In the center it’s transparent, and there’s a hologram there. Given how hard it is to forge a polymer note, it’s a wonder why more countries don’t use it on their larger denominations. They’re also more durable (they can be washed safely).

    As for the uncopyable notes – I’m told it’s a binary blob of code that looks for a peculiar pattern of 5 dots in yellow – one in the center plus 4 dots orbiting it – paired up. But that’s all I know about the technology of detecting banknotes. Supposedly if you look carefully, they all have ’em.

  11. Niyaz PK says:

    May be that is the spelling in Kazakhstan.

  12. Jonathan says:

    Israel also recently issued plastic notes. They’re laundry-machine proof and untearable by hand (You could probably cutwith scissors). Oddly, they only did that with the lowest-value ones – 20 NIS (~$6US).

    The media – all of them – reported these notes as ‘made from a special material called "Polymer"’. Which is quite a strange thing to say – kind of like "purely made of molecules!"

  13. The Imp says:

    Apparently there was a Russian counterfeiting operation that was foiled because they misspelled "Russia" on their fake Rubles. Quite the opposite effect as here, but still funny ("dumb criminal" is the *original* "dumb government" for punchlines, and moreso now that they tend to behave about the same as each other).

    I was quite sure that – in the US at least – currency could not be copyrighted because Copyright was intended to cover only what nothing else did, and there is clearly a Treasury law to cover money already. Not that I can find that ruling now… maybe I was thinking of something else.

    I’d love to see what happens in, say, Europe if they decide to change the money slightly and the original designer sues for breach of Moral Rights. I think we’ll find out then what the true status of Copyright on money is (Moral Rights cannot be waived or assigned and do not expire, so there’s no question that it could be an issue unless a specific piece of legislation excepts it or the subject is not Copyrightable). Won’t happen in the US, though – although agreed to per convention, there’s no implementation of Moral Rights in law except for selected video works.

  14. SCB says:

    "As for the uncopyable notes – I’m told it’s a binary blob of code that looks for a peculiar pattern of 5 dots in yellow – one in the center plus 4 dots orbiting it – paired up. But that’s all I know about the technology of detecting banknotes. Supposedly if you look carefully, they all have ’em."

    See

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EURion_constellation

  15. AndersR says:

    Not exactly ground breaking news huh? Both links are dated april 2006 ;-)

  16. Dog says:

    >Steve Loughran:

    UK/EU notes have a (c) notice to eliminate the ‘nobody told me I couldn’t copy it’ defence. EU notes also have a funny speckled yellow pattern on it that photocopiers and color printers recognise and change the colour balance slightly on. They care a lot about people copying their artwork.

    It doesn’t really have much to do with artwork, the ECB has rules that *allow* copying of banknotes, including the copying of individual design elements, even for commercial gain.

    (See pdf linked here: http://www.ecb.int/bc/reproduction/html/index.en.html )

    What they do care about, however, is preventing the use of forged currency (which is why the general principle is "Reproductions complying with [… criteria …] shall

    be deemed lawful since there is no risk that the general public

    might mistake them for genuine euro banknotes."

    They use copyright as a tool to do this, but the intent is to prevent crime, not protect artwork.

  17. zzz says:

    some amusing Euro pictures. They’ve updated the coin later to fix the issue but there’s lot of the old ones around.

    http://www.fleur-de-coin.com/coinfacts/euros_2.asp

  18. Cooney says:

    I was quite sure that – in the US at least – currency could not be copyrighted because Copyright was intended to cover only what nothing else did,

    Nope. The US government can’t own copyrights is why.

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