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US offers downloadable dollars to artists

8 October 2004

Looking for a scan of a dollar bill to use in your work? Just ask the US government, who are offering free low-resolution digital downloads of the new $50 dollar bill for use by artists, students and educators.

The move is tied to new anti-copying technology built in to most new scanners, computers and printers, which will prevent people from scanning the notes, states a report by the Associated Press.

The US government has collaborated with major technology companies such a Xerox, Kodak, Adobe Systems, Ulead Systems and Hewlett-Packard to introduce the new software in a bid to try and stamp out counterfeit fraud, which is so widespread that around 1 in 25,000 $50 notes in circulation is a fake.

However, Uncle Sam has promised to help those wanting images of the notes for legitimate use, such as within arts or teaching projects, by making the scans available on the Moneyfactory website run by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the US equivalent of the Royal Mint. It is also open to individual requests from designers and others interested in commercial use of the dollar imagery.

"There is no limit on the ways that people may use images of currency. What we don't want is people whipping currency out of their pockets and making copies," said Eugenie Foster, cash project leader in the Federal Reserve Board's division of reserve bank operations and payment systems.

The technology detects and blocks attempts to view, scan or print copies of the redesigned $20 and $50 bills and, in a pop-up window, urges consumers to visit a Web site, http://www.rulesforuse.org, to learn about international counterfeit laws.

The technology, known as the Counterfeit Deterrence System, was designed by a consortium of 27 central banks in the United States, England, Japan, Canada and across the European Union, the Central Bank Counterfeit Deterrence Group.

Wired magazine, however, reports that it is quite easy for lateral-minded users to circumvent the restrictions using basic techniques in packages such as Photoshop.

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