Is It Illegal To Make Photographs Of U.S. Currency?

Twenty Dollar BillDid I commit a federal offense by making this photo of a twenty dollar bill?

Or by publishing it?

And are you an accomplice because you looked at it?

Holy handcuffs Batman!

I had a notion that it is unlawful to make photos of U.S. money. I had heard that somewhere. So I did some research.

It turns out that the Counterfeit Detection Act of 1992, more specifically a regulation promulgated by the Department of the Treasury under the authority of that Act, 31 CFR section 411.1, authorizes printing and publishing color illustrations of U.S. currency if . . .

  1. The illustration is at least 3/4 smaller or 1 1/2 times larger than the actual bill.

  2. The illustration is one-sided.

  3. All negatives, digitized storage media, magnetic media, optical storage devices, etc. are destroyed or erased after the final use.

To be super careful, I took one other precaution. Since the law is ultimately about counterfeiting, I only photographed part of the twenty dollar bill. No one could mistake that for the real deal. I know that our money’s buying power is shrinking, but the bills themselves aren’t.

So, I think we’re safe.

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