The Bank of England owns the copyright in all of its banknotes, writes Paul Jones. The bank justifies its strict copyright policy in the light of the need to preserve and guarantee the integrity and value of its notes and thereby protect against the dangers of counterfeiting. The bank restricts reproduction of its notes in order to ensure that reproductions cannot be used to defraud the public. The bank is also concerned about the context in which the notes are reproduced, especially if the Queen’s portrait is distorted or shown in offensive surroundings.
Under Section 18 (1) of the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981, the reproduction of notes requires the prior written consent of the bank. Those wishing to reproduce notes (for example advertisers or publishers) should first get in touch with the "Notes Reproductions Officer" of the bank to discuss their proposals (unless the applicant is a newspaper that already has global authority to use the images).
The bank does not allow reproductions of its notes on articles for sale, for example mugs, tea towels etc. The Bank’s written permission is necessary for advertisements that incorporate a reproduction of a banknote. There are also certain criteria the designs are expected to meet. These criteria relate to the size of the reproductions – they must not be the same size as the actual notes, either being at least twice as large or twice as small as the banknotes. The same applies to reproductions of part of the notes. Furthermore, notes should be shown on a slant and should also form part of a larger pictorial design.
The same criteria apply in relation to the reproduction for educational use save that notes may be shown flat to the camera provided they have the word "specimen" in solid black capitals printed across them.
These criteria do not apply to reproductions of notes for educational purposes on film or television. However, if it is proposed to include reproductions in a film or TV advertisement, the bank must be consulted and its written permission is required. Reproductions of pre-1960 notes must meet the size criteria detailed above but need not be slanted or overprinted with the word "specimen". No specific application for permission is necessary, although the Bank should be consulted where a reproduction does not meet the size criteria.The copyright in images of the Euro are owned by the European Central Bank.
Paul Jones is a trainee in the intellectual property team at Farrer & Co