Can you ban banknotes, please?

Can you actually print money?

Ines Walke-Chomjakov

Banknotes, certificates, certificates: who has not asked themselves whether they can simply be printed or copied. We looked into the matter.

EnlargeYou can find out in the guide whether and how printers can prevent banknotes from being copied.

What is forbidden is known to be particularly seductive. For example, printing banknotes. According to the Criminal Code, mere copying is not a criminal offense, but rather the distribution of such banknotes or copying with the intention of putting the banknotes into circulation. The exact wording of the law on counterfeiting can be found under Section 146.

However, in addition to the criminal law, the law on administrative offenses also applies to this question. According to this, anyone who produces printed matter that can be confused with means of payment is acting unlawfully. At the same time, someone who does not recognize a forged bill as such risks being prosecuted. PC-WELT asked lawyers: There is probably nothing wrong with notes that are not a real means of payment at first glance. However, only for private use and never with the intention of using them in public.

From a purely legal point of view, everything seems clear: you are not allowed to print or copy banknotes. But is that even technically possible or have the printer manufacturers built precautionary measures into the devices that prevent banknotes from being printed, scanned and copied? PC-WELT makes a sample.

Copy money with an ink multifunction device

First, we test two multifunctional devices to see whether a banknote can be copied. We put a ten-euro bill on the scanner glass of the respective device and press the button for the color copy. Both combination devices obey without grumbling. In any case, there are no locks stored here to prevent the process. In both cases we receive a copied note that is at least similar in color to the original. However, the copies naturally lack important features such as security threads, watermarks or holograms. The paper in a banknote also feels very different from the normal paper we use. Nevertheless, it cannot be completely ruled out that the printed image irritates the inattentive viewer for a moment.

Reports on the Internet show that not every combination device automatically copies a banknote. Here, users describe that some multifunctional devices recognize the template as a banknote. You can print it out, but at the same time mark it with the comment "Sample". This means that the copies are clearly marked as such. A measure against abuse.

Scanning and printing of banknotes

EnlargeWhen scanning, some programs, such as PS Elements here, recognize banknotes and display a warning.

Scanning banknotes is far more tricky than copying. The reason: locks are often stored in the image processing programs and scanner drivers. The programs recognize the original on the scanner glass as a banknote. For example, Adobe Photoshop Elements reports as soon as it is digitized: "This application does not support printing banknote images." The scan can be continued, but the program cannot print the scanned image.

Alternatively, we can try the utility programs that the manufacturers include with the combination devices. Here the scan works without warning. When we want to print, the tool changes the size of the template without asking. A print in the original size does not succeed, which is to be regarded as a certain precautionary measure.

Bills from the copy system

EnlargeThe copier recognizes the banknote and warns of printing.

We do another random sample with the help of the departmental copier. Again we put a bill on the scanner glass and press the button for color copy. And lo and behold: The process is interrupted with the message: “Reproduction of this original may be prohibited. Please check the original. ”So there is a built-in lock that detects what is on the scanner glass. Even more: when we copy anyway, we get a color copy that is extra gray. This is a clear security measure to prevent the printing of banknotes by making the scan result very different from the original.

This is what manufacturers say about "printing money"

Epson: It is not possible to scan marked or otherwise protected originals (e.g. banknotes) with Epson Scan, the standard program for Epson scanners and multifunctional systems. The scan will stop and you will receive a warning message with a link to www.rulesforuse.org. A copy directly on the device, without going through the PC, is possible with at least one Epson device.

Conclusion: Printing money - it's very easy on inexpensive devices

In our sample, copying a banknote on a multifunction device for private users turns out to be easier than expected. Amazing, because when asked, the manufacturers rate this topic as highly sensitive. In the test, scanning is prevented more consistently than copying. However, this is due to the locks in the software. As soon as you bypass this - for example when copying directly via the device, it works. Professional printing systems such as our high-performance company copier are most consistently equipped with measures to prevent misuse.