Scanning Money

© Samantha Cooper, CCSF Intermediate Photoshop student
© Samantha Cooper had to "cut up" the bill to bring it into Photoshop piece by piece.

A student of mine in my Intermediate Photoshop class at CCSF was interested in scanning money for our “scanner as camera” assignment. That part went well, but when she attempted to import it into Photoshop for editing an error message occurred.

Apparently and unbeknownst to me, since 2004 Photoshop detects currency notes that are protected through EURion Constellation – it’s a secret pattern of symbols found in banknote designs, including the American Dollar, Euro and the Indian Rupee, to help software easily detect that the image being edited is that of a currency note.

Such software can then block the user from reproducing banknotes to prevent counterfeiting using colour photocopiers. However, recent research shows that the EURion constellation may just be one of many factors used to detect currency, and is not necessarily required. Technical details regarding the EURion constellation are kept secret by its inventors and users.

Apart from various image editing software, some scanners and photocopying devices also use this pattern to foil wannabe counterfeiters. Adobe revealed it added the technology after a customer complained in an online support forum about mysterious behavior by the new $650 Photoshop CS software when opening an image of a U.S. $20 bill.

You think to yourself – who would try counterfeiting? Well, while a student at RIT in the mid 1990s I remember the FBI coming in and seizing computers and scanners because it was thought students were trying it. In addition, during the gold rush of the 1800s it was a major problem with 1/2-2/3 of currency being counterfeit. More recently however, 2001 statistics by the U.S. Treasury estimated that less then .01 percent of approximately $600 billion in U.S. currency in circulation was counterfeit. So is it worth all the technology efforts or are the technology efforts reducing counterfeiting?

The design of money if fair use – should artist be allowed to digitize it? There are some published work arounds to the encriptions but they are old and don’t account for changes in the newest adobe software. What are your thoughts? -Erika


3 thoughts on “Scanning Money

  1. Wow! Very interesting technology! Now I wish Adobe would fix its Photoshop conflicts with Lion. It has continued to screw up my system even when the Photoshop program isn’t running. Just its presence alone has caused some memory problems and I don’t know how to fix it, and apparently, neither does Apple, at least from my experience at the Genius Bar. Wondering if they had to compromise its compatibility with Lion for its clever currency recognition and security technology.


  2. The cut up is art. The protection is paranoia used to hide the fact that paper money is really worth nothing more than what those in power say it’s worth. The real statement here is the resistance and defiance the cut up represents. Thwart our efforts to scan legal tender and we’ll simply destroy it. Those that say we can’t can do nothing to stop it.


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