Currency counterfeiting is inevitably a growing problem in the age of Photoshop and high-quality laser printers. Photographic reproductions are ridiculously easy, so those with slippery ethics are figuring out that casually minting their own 20’s here and there is as easy as clicking a few buttons.
To help combat the problem, graphical editors are starting to incorporate currency-detection algorithms. I’d heard about this as one of the new “features” in recent versions of Photoshop, but today was the first time I had personally butted up against it:
Photoshop allows you to open the image anyway, so I played with it a bit to see what the limitations are. Obviously when you try to print it you get a slap on the wrist:
However, it appears the bill needs to be mostly uncovered (or at least key detection points need to be). If you cover it with something else, you’re able to print the document. So the bill may be used without altering a document’s printability, provided it doesn’t appear to Photoshop that you’re using it for counterfeiting purposes.
You can fool it, however. If you rotate the bill 45 degrees, the warnings go away. The detection algorithm appears a bit immature yet, since it only appears to work when the bill is prominently featured and at close to a horizontal alignment.
My copies of other currency were too low-res to trigger the detection, I only experienced this on US bills. The euros, pounds, and Canadian dollars I tried didn’t issue a warning. However, were the EURion constellation clearly visible on my samples (it wasn’t), I’m sure I’d have seen the same warning.
If you want to try it yourself, the current first Google Images search for 50 dollar bill nets a perfect example. (And yes, there are legitimate uses for opening reproductions of currency in an image editor that don’t constitute counterfeiting; ever work with a company in the financial sector?)