Information about the use of coins and bank notes in the public domain for advertising.
- Are coins and bank notes in the public domain and free to use in ads?
- Are all ads featuring bank notes or coins illegal?
- What does the Forgery & Counterfeiting Act 1981 say about the use of bank notes and coins in advertisements?
- Can protraying a coin or bank note infringe copyright?
- How do the Lord Chamberlain's rules on Royal Images apply?
- Are two-dimensional reproductions of coins OK?
- How can bank notes be featured legally in marketing material?
- Will sending the Bank of England a draft ad with the note depicted in good taste save the day?
- What depiction of bank notes is more likely to meet with the Bank of England’s approval?
- How long does getting Bank of England consent take?
- Do no-longer-legal-tender or foreign bank notes avoid forgery and copyright problems?
Are coins and bank notes in the public domain and free to use in ads?
No. The Forgery & Counterfeiting Act 1981 can make life very difficult for marketers who show currency in ads without following the rules, as can the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 and the Lord Chamberlain's rules on the Use of Royal Images.
Are all ads featuring bank notes or coins illegal?
No, hopefully for the advertiser, the agency involved will have taken the precaution of checking the "Bank of England's Guidelines for reproducing Bank of England notes in Advertisements and Illustrations" as well as "HM Treasury's Guidelines on the use of representations of UK coins and bank notes".
What does the Forgery & Counterfeiting Act 1981 say about the use of bank notes and coins in advertisements?
Section 81 makes it an offence for any person, unless the Bank of England has previously consented in writing, to reproduce on any substance whatsoever, any British currency note or any part of a British currency note. Section 14 also makes it an offence to make a counterfeit of any coin used as money in any country which is reasonably capable of passing for a genuine coin.
Can portraying a coin or bank note infringe copyright?
The design on any current UK coin or bank note will be an artistic work protected by Crown Copyright and as such any reproduction of a recognisable part of the design could infringe that copyright.
How do the Lord Chamberlain's rules on Royal Images apply?
The Lord Chamberlain's rules lay down strict guidelines on the use of royal images in advertising, including the royal images that appear on bank notes and coins. In essence the practice is forbidden save for cases where the advertisement is promoting a book, magazine or film about the royal person depicted. The Lord Chamberlain's Rules do not have the force of law, but an advertiser's chief executive may not be too happy with the damage to his knighthood prospects if he incurs the Lord Chamberlain's wrath! The British Code of Advertising also prohibits use of images of the current royal family.
Are two dimensional reproductions of coins OK?
If the means of reproducing an advertisement picturing a coin could theoretically be used also to make 3D copies, then there might be a difficulty under the 1981 Forgery & Counterfeiting Act. HM Treasury say, however, that 2D reproductions of a coin for use in ads are normally permissible without the need to obtain HM Treasury's consent, provided the coin is faithfully reproduced and shown in good taste. In this connection HM Treasury rely upon the "good sense" of the advertisers themselves, but showing the side of the coin featuring the Queen's head is actively discouraged without the prior consent of the Treasury, although it is said that there will be no objection to showing a random group or pile of coins in which some appear with the Queen's head side uppermost.
How can bank notes be featured legally in marketing material?
With the Bank of England's consent! Advertisers should note that the reproduction of any part of a note of currency requires the prior consent of the Bank of England in writing. Such consent will avoid both forgery and copyright infringement problems since the Bank is the owner of the copyright in the designs on its notes. Advertisers contemplating the use of reproductions of bank notes in advertising should therefore get in touch with the Issue Office of the Bank to discuss what they have in mind.
Will sending the Bank of England a draft ad with the note depicted in good taste save the day?
No. It is not good policy to send the bank even a mock-up of your proposed advertisement design unless you have discussed the matter with them first. This is because the reproduction of any part of a bank note, even in a rough draft, could on the face of it constitute an offence under the 1981 Forgery & Counterfeiting Act. Care should be taken therefore that such material as is submitted to the bank for its approval should depict notes of currency only in very rough sketch or outline form, with no detail from any particular bank note design.
What depiction of bank notes is more likely to meet with the Bank of England’s approval?
It is best to check the Bank of England Guidelines, but designs are normally expected not to reproduce the bank note in its actual size and this applies regardless of whether the reproduction is in the final analysis going to be in black and white or colour. If the actual size is to be smaller than the real note it can be up to half as long and half as wide. If it is to be larger, it must be at least twice as long and twice as wide and reproductions of parts of notes must be in the same proportions. As an additional protection against misuse, notes should be shown on a slant and not flat to camera and they should also form part of a larger pictorial design. Care should be taken also to avoid reproductions which might be seen by the public as "lowering the dignity or prestige of the currency".
How long does getting Bank of England consent take?
It is recommended that an initial phone call is made before the process is started, but provided the process is handled efficiently at the advertiser’s end there should be prospects of the Bank’s permission being obtained, unless there are major complications, within a matter of days.
Do no-longer-legal-tender or foreign bank notes avoid forgery and copyright problems?
No longer legal tender British currency notes are still a problem, both under the 1981 Act and from a copyright infringement point of view. The relevant definition in the Forgery & Counterfeiting Act includes any note which is or has been lawfully issued in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. So what about reproducing non-British notes in ads? The answer is that this will not be an offence under the 1981 Act, but beware copyright infringement problems!