Why Do Canada And Europe Copyright Money?

from the questions,-questions,-questions? dept

We've discussed in the past the odd idea that any government should be able to copyright anything it produces, but plenty of governments still do maintain things like "crown copyright" or other similar concepts for content they create. Yet, it looks like some countries have gone one step further. They copyright their money. Yes, Michael Scott points us to a blog post from an American law professor, Eric E. Johnson, who was on a trip to Canada and was surprised to discover that they have copyright notices on their paper currency. Of course, this should make you wonder: if you counterfeit some Canadian money are you also on the hook for copyright infringement violations? Or is there some other reason for the copyright notice. Are they afraid other nations might copy the design without compensation?

Finding the whole thing bizarre, but remembering that I have some Canadian currency from my last trip there, I checked -- and, indeed, in tiny print in the lower right-hand corner, there is a copyright notice. And then... bonus. Tucked in with my Canadian cash was a 5 euro bill as well... and it also appears to have a copyright notice on it right at the top in the center (though, it's tiny). I did a quick search, and indeed, it appears that the design of the euro is also covered by copyright with specific limitations on copying. Of course, I thought that was what counterfeiting laws were for -- so why even bother with copyright?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    icon
    Mike C. (profile), Nov 5th, 2009 @ 7:38am

    Security through obscurity...

    While it's a bad one, the only theory I can come up with is that they planned to use infringement claims to keep images of the bills from being shared publicly, thus reducing the number of people who have clean images to counterfeit from.

    And wow - that's an even worse theory when I see it typed... :-)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Jake, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 8:30am

      Re: Security through obscurity...

      It's also possible that the idea was to force people printing stuff like Monopoly money to make it sufficiently different from actual bills to pass the moron-in-a-hurry test, lest someone try to pass it off as legal tender when making a payment.
      Which is actually pretty sensible, even if it's not exactly what copyright was designed for.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Valkor, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 10:02am

        Re: Re: Security through obscurity...

        I've heard people say that American bills are looking more and more like Monopoly (R)(TM)(ETC) money (with the value following quickly), but I haven't heard anything going the other way. Monopoly money is *designed* to be obviously Monopoly money, not legal tender, if for no other reason than advertising/product recognition.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Jake, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 10:02pm

          Re: Security through obscurity...

          Monopoly money probably wasn't the best example, though I have an idea the various localised versions use their own unique in-game currency. But I have seen play-money, of the sort a young child might use with a cash-register playset, that looks extremely close to British currency except for reduced size or a few altered details. Putting that kind of product to the local equivalent of the moron-in-a-hurry test is definitely necessary.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            identicon
            Valkor, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 6:47am

            Re: Re: Security through obscurity...

            They sell the exact same play money in grocery stores in the US. It's the wrong size, the wrong color, yet still perfectly recognizable as a representation of money. Toy companies modify the details so as not to create counterfeit money, not to respect "IP" rights on money. I'm quite glad that the standard for counterfeiting is higher than the standard for trademark violation.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Andrew, Nov 7th, 2009 @ 9:26am

        Re: Re: Security through obscurity...

        I think this is exactly the point, and it's a sound one. When you're a country that invests in having a currency that is widely recognized as yours, and easy to differentiate from others, you lose if someone copies your designs. This shows up a lot in coins (which don't seem to have a copyright symbol anywhere). There are a couple of caribbean currencies who have worthless coins that look like Canadian dimes. They get passed off as such frequently. If this happened with bills, the Canadian Gov't could go after the infringing country and ask them to stop making bills that looked so similar to Canadian ones. The frequency of "counterfeit" passing (which is easily measured by banks) would actually be proof that the moron-in-a-hurry test is failed.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    jezsik (profile), Nov 5th, 2009 @ 8:06am

    Probably nothing to do with the whole bill

    I'm betting the copyright is there to prevent someone from using a portion of an image of the bill for advertising or something similar. For that matter, it could be to prevent someone from using an image that is clearly not counterfeiting, but still infringing: say, a billboard of a bill with advertising text across it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 10:41am

      Re: Probably nothing to do with the whole bill

      banks often use pictures of Canadian money in there advertisement.

      i remember very well the royal bank did that

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        David (profile), Nov 5th, 2009 @ 11:02am

        Re: Re: Probably nothing to do with the whole bill

        i remember very well the royal bank did that


        I would assume that the royal bank would be related to the copyright holder. Or maybe not...

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Nov 5th, 2009 @ 8:20am

    Answer from inside the Helmet:

    "Why Do Canada And Europe Copyright Money?"

    Apparently, and I'm still reading up on this, it has something to do with trademark law, actually. The idea is that if the Euro is copyrighted, as is it's dingbat and/or logo, then you cannot use such images and/or logos in a trademarked image as a citizen or corporation.

    You know more about this stuff than I do, so you can tell me whether that makes sense from a legal standpoint...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    R. Miles (profile), Nov 5th, 2009 @ 8:27am

    I have an answer.

    I thought that was what counterfeiting laws were for -- so why even bother with copyright?
    Simple. When the judicial system fails to convict those who counterfeit, the civil system will tag them with statutory damages.

    It's a fail safe system.
    /sarcasm

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 8:30am

    Likely by such an act the countries are able to secure monopoly rents...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Devonavar, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 8:33am

    Art

    I suspect there's a very mundane explanation, at least for the Canadian bills. The art on the bills is commissioned from well known (or well connected) Canadian artists. As such, the visual design would fall under copyright.

    My guess is whatever contract the mint has with the artists assigns the copyright of the bill's design to the government of Canada, and the copyright notice is evidence of this agreement.

    I don't buy the vaguely conspiratorial theory that it is somehow meant to augment anti-counterfeit laws. I think this is a fairly clearcut (and, given the law, legitimate) case of an artistic design falling under copyright.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    J, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 8:55am

    Making currency is a business

    The Canadian mint actually gets revenue for producing currency for many other countries aside from Canada. I imagine copyrighting the imagery is their protecting from other countries just copying the Canadian bills.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    ethorad (profile), Nov 5th, 2009 @ 8:57am

    UK money too

    My £10 is (c) The Governor and Company of the Bank of England.

    The extra "protection" whereby copyright laws could prevent copies being made which weren't being passed off as real (ie the billboards mentioned above) sort of makes sense, but I see plenty of pictures of money in various films, TV series, adverts etc. I guess it maybe depends on how similar those copies are, it's difficult to tell on the screen.

    Although, you have to ask - if copyright is to promote the creation of art, would people really not print money if they didn't have copyright protection? :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 8:59am

    Counterfeiting isn't what they are protecting against, it's things like novelty money, reproductions (larger or smaller) for everything from keychains to wall posters. they aren't copyrighting the money, they are copyrighting the design and the design elements on the bills.

    Another techduh story of wonder...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      John Doe, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 9:04am

      Re:

      You missed the point. Why copyright it? Why should the government restrict key chains and posters at all? Duh.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Valkor, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 10:10am

      Re:

      Fail. The link to the Euro copyright page specifically gives examples for the novelty uses you suggest. If you think that the government should have any say in the creation of a keychain based on a cultural artifact such as cash, we'll need you to stick around for a little re-education.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    John Doe, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 9:03am

    Simple Answer

    So counterfeiters can be kicked off the internet after being caught 3 times.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    JD, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 9:15am

    UK too...

    I'm looking at a 10 pound note and it as a (c) as well...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 9:21am

    When I was in elementary school, we used to make photocopies of many to learn how to buy, give change, etc. That would probably be illegal in Canada and Europe, then?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 9:59am

      Re:

      Dunno about Canada and Europe, but copying money is illegal in the United States.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 12:17pm

        Re: Re:

        Copying money is NOT, by itself, illegal in Canada. I believe that there must be an intent to pass it as currency fot it to be illegal. Thus, copyright law prevents people from creating almost-currency and passing it. It also protects the artists (and they are) who create the artworks.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Ima Fish (profile), Nov 5th, 2009 @ 9:32am

    "so why even bother with copyright?"

    Um, because copyright is even more draconian than criminal law? You don't see criminals who steal a CDs worth of music from Walmart being ordered to pay million dollar judgments.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 9:39am

    Isn't the real question why US currency isn't copyrighted?

    Looking at a eurobill, the design and artwork obviously falls under copyright.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Valkor, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 9:55am

      Re:

      No, like it said in the article, use of the image would either be legally protected fair use or criminal counterfeiting. Why should it "obviously" be copyrighted? What science or useful art is promoted by the *government* retaining copyright on bills? PLEASE explain "obviously" to me!

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Martin (profile), Nov 5th, 2009 @ 9:49am

    IIRC it was introduced in the UK after the Bank of England lost a court case prosecuting an artist who had created artistic recreation of current banknotes in watercolour at the exact size etc as legal tender. From then on the (C) appeared.

    I think they just wanted another layer of protection to allow them to prevent people getting even close...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Martin (profile), Nov 5th, 2009 @ 9:53am

      Re:

      Here we go, I belive this was the case I remember...
      http://209.85.229.132/search?q=cache:moosY_DeIk4J:www.artquest.org.uk/artlaw/money/

      "Take another look at the new £5 note: '© THE GOVERNOR AND COMPANY OF THE BANK OF ENGLAND 1990' is printed on both sides of the note in the bottom left-hand corner. A unique occurrence in the history of English currency; and an original contribution to the historical lineage linking art and money. Why? We asked the Bank of England and were told that the Boggs case certainly 'focused their minds' on the question of reproductions and artistic use of their images. "

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Clive, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 9:51am

    Copyrighted Money

    You mean the idea of copyrighting currency wasn't invented by some dumb-ass American lawyer?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Danny (profile), Nov 5th, 2009 @ 10:01am

    yeah, that's the ticket

    "Honest officer, I only made one copy of this fifty for demonstration purposes; it should be covered under fair use."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Valkor, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 10:05am

      Re: yeah, that's the ticket

      It certainly could be, right up to the point where you try to pay for your groceries, or crack for that matter, with it. Now, if you have a perfect reproduction of currency, you're running afoul of a very different set of laws.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 5th, 2009 @ 10:58am

      Re: yeah, that's the ticket

      "Honest officer, I only made one copy of this fifty for demonstration purposes; it should be covered under fair use."

      *DING*

      Comment of the day.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 10:59am

    Why do you need to copyright....

    Why do you need to copyright a book before a publisher will print it?

    Because a publisher will only print it if they get exclusive rights to print it.

    This ain't Kinkos, people!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 11:11am

    You can add Hong Kong currency to the list of bills with copyright protections(?) as well. I went through the various currencies I have on hand (Singapore, Egypt, UAE, Hong Kong, Australia, Iraq) and the only one I saw was on several Hong Kong bills. However, the Honk Kong bills do not appear to be issued by the government. Instead, one of them is issued by "Bank of China (Hong Kong) Limited" and the other by "The Honkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited". So I can maybe understand why they have a copyright.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    jerome (profile), Nov 5th, 2009 @ 11:12am

    Art (bis)

    "so why even bother with copyright"

    They don't bother with anything. In most EU countries, every artwork or speech or written paper is protected by copyright (exceptions are laws and court deliberations). There is no need to bother or register anything. Coin or banknote design is obviously an artwork, thus it is protected by copyright. Copyright notice or symbol (c) is a bonus, it is not required.

    Only the US had the (good) idea that work done on behalf of the federal state should be public domain. Feel free to convince the EU Commission to pass an equivalent bill.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 11:38am

    amused by the idea of "Hey, give us your money cause your money looks like our money"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Joe, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 11:48am

    counterfeiting versus reproductions

    I think the goal here was to give the bank tools to combat counterfeiting as well as reproductions.

    Their reasoning is explained here:

    http://bankofcanada.ca/en/banknotes/legislation/repro.html

    They make exceptions for video usage and also go into more detail with:

    -------------

    The Bank's goals with respect to the reproduction of bank note images

    Although the Bank is the copyright owner of the images used on Canadian bank notes, it recognizes that currency is an important symbol of value in Canada. Accordingly, people may wish to reproduce images for appropriate reasons. The Bank will ordinarily consent to such reproductions if

    a)there is no risk that the reproduced image could be mistaken for a genuine note or misused by counterfeiters

    b)the proposed use does not tarnish the dignity and importance of currency to Canadians.

    --------------


    I would assume the EU and Britain's logic is somewhat similar.

    Judging how i see little plastic $10,000 key chains in the tourist stores, I don't think this is overly enforced.

    -Joe

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    John, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 11:58am

    I think its actual just the Bank Of Canada that is trademarked not the actual bill

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 12:05pm

    So if I want to print a bunch of one-sided Canadian dollars that's fine, but if I were to then make a video in which I defecate all over them, that would be copyright infringement?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), Nov 5th, 2009 @ 1:24pm

    Real Reason

    The real reason they have them copyrighted is because the penalties for breaking copyright are way worse than any other law you could possibly break. ;)
    After they get 3 strikes and proactive-policement their next move will be to get copyright infringement punishable by death.

    Judge: "I am really sorry but all fair use has been removed from law so I am going to have to give you the chair."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Dink, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 1:38pm

    No such notice on Australia dollars. Now, excuse me while I go reproduce some arktwork of Banjo Paterson's head.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 2:09pm

    uk money has a copyright notice too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Yoan, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 2:57pm

    Eurpêan copyright on money

    Well, I believe the reason for the copyright on European euro's is done to prevent a non euro-country to make a currency design that looks similar to theirs,

    Turkey once made a coin that looks and had the size of a 2 euro coin but with a lower value. And these ended up in the euro-country's. And people started using them in vending machines, so money was lost with selling products out of vending machines, but they were also use in gabling slots.
    So that's why they probably copyright their currency.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      jerome (profile), Nov 5th, 2009 @ 3:59pm

      Re: European copyright on money

      1) Copyright protection does not prevent Turkey from minting coins of specific weight and size that by chance can fool vending machines in other countries.

      (Copyright, if it applies, only protects the drawing, which at the moment is not used by vending machines to identify coins.)

      2) Where exactly would you like to sue the government of Turkey for infringing copyright of euro coins? In a tribunal located in Turkey --where the process will be discarded for national interest-- or in the EU --where the government of Turkey did not by itself commit any offense (the only offense here is made by the customer trying to pay with a coin without legal tender)?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    wesley, Nov 7th, 2009 @ 5:32am

    copyright of money

    not only do the Canadian,s and the euro pins do but that so being is crazy as the Australian,s don,t that i know of but th e use of the steel thread and as well as the hallo gram in the corner of the note seems heavy ,but all being so .it would be as money in the bank if we did as well

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This