Currency painting [was Re: Obsolesence of Intellectual Property ]

From: James Wetterau (
Date: Thu Aug 03 2000 - 08:31:23 MDT

"Zero Powers" says:
> >Jason Joel Thompson wrote:
> > > spent energy producing, then it is clear that we should come to some
> > > arrangement by which I should end up with something that you have spent
> > > energy producing (like, er, money for instance.)
> > > By your argument, it should be legal to counterfeit money.
> Nice rhetoric, but its not *quite* the same thing. The main reason its
> illegal to counterfeit money is that the only purpose of counterfeit money
> is to use it to dupe people into giving you things and services of value for
> something which has no value. In other words, its raison d'etre is to
> facilitate the commission of fraud.
> The crime of counterfeiting has *nothing* to do with infringing the
> Government's copyright on the design of a dollar. In fact the Government
> has never enforced its copyright on the design of money (although it
> arguably has the right to do so). So long as your reproduction of money has
> no reasonable chance of being used to commit fraud (say, painting a larger
> than life size dollar bill on the side of a building) Uncle Sam won't give a
> hoot.

Umm, sort of, mostly.

The story of J. S. G. Boggs and his dealings with the U. S. Secret
Service is so packed with questions about meaning and layers of
meaning that I can't possibly decode it here. But suffice it to say
that he is a fine artist who paints U.S. and other currency and,
without attempting to defraud anyone, he has had his artworks
confiscated by the Secret Service.

Boggs seeks to "spend" his extremely realistic artwork, which closely
resembles actual Federal Reserve Notes, as a further act of
performance art. He explains to store owners that this is not "real"
currency, but is real art. (My favorite response was the store clerk
who counter-offered to sell Boggs an extrememly realistic looking
sculpture of the box a VCR comes in in exchange for the note when
Boggs tried to "buy" a VCR for some of his notes.)

No charges have been brought against him for counterfeiting, probably
because Boggs has never tried to deceive anyone. However, the
U.S. government gets really uncomfortable about people who get so
close to these lines. They are touchy about people imitating the
design elements, even when it seems clear that those people have not
tried to commit fraud.


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