Worried about sticking that check in a scanner? How about an employee’s military ID? The question crosses most people’s minds at one point or another: is it really such a good idea? Is it even legal to be doing this?
Making copies of information has always occupied a murky area of the law. While some activities, such as creating pirated copies of a book to resell, are clearly wrong, many of the scanning and faxing activities more commonly found in offices have a less obvious legal (and security) answer. In most situations, it’s going to come down to one thing: the chance that this activity could lead to fraud. From questions of security to those of legality, here’s the scoop on what’s safe (and legal) to stick in fax machines or scanners – and what not to attempt to duplicate.
Intellectual property includes intangible property like creative works, patents, trademarks, trade secrets, or designs. Protecting it is big business for major publishing companies in every field. Unlike physical property which can be physically guarded, companies use copyright laws to protect intellectual property from being reproduced or used without an author’s consent or reimbursement. In general:
Do: Feel Free to Scan Items for Educational Purposes (Carefully)
Copyright laws in the United States allow educators to make copies of material for educational purposes. These exceptions to copyright protections are designed to reduce the burden on teachers and students who would otherwise need to purchase or pay a license to creators of the property every single time they wanted to use a work.
However, that doesn’t mean that all copyrighted materials can be scanned at the office. Some owners may request that their work is excepted from the educational clause, meaning that they still expect to be paid by teachers or educators who make copies of their work.
Don’t: Scan Items to Redistribute to Avoid Buying a Copy or License
It’s illegal. At its core, copyright law is meant to prevent individuals from creating copies of a piece of intellectual property and redistributing it without compensating the author. Don’t scan chapters of the CEO’s favorite leadership book and distribute them to employees. Buy a copy or two and put them in the breakroom instead.
Forms of Identification
Most employers collect information about employees and, in some cases, clients. This may include photo identification or other sensitive information. Not sure what’s safe or legal to scan? Here’s what to know.
Do: Scan or Photocopy Government-Issued Identification
Although urban legend claims it’s illegal to scan a passport, the federal government actually encourages it as a matter of safety. Likewise, feel free to scan or copy driver’s licenses, social security cards, or other government-issued identification which was provided by the individual.
Don’t: Scan or Photocopy Military or Government IDs
It’s illegal. Any form of identification which originates with the military, Department of Defense, or other government agency, cannot legally be copied or duplicated in any way. The federal government considers it a threat to national security.
Checks and Money
There are all sorts of technologies these days designed to make paper checks, money orders, and cash easier to handle in the digital world. However, photocopying or scanning a piece of paper with bank information can cause some people to get nervous.
Do: Utilize Remote Deposit Capture or Other Digital Capabilities for Non-Cash Money
These tools can be massive time-savers for companies that are already handling a tremendous amount of paperwork. Feel free to take advantage of the prevalence of remote deposits or other check-handling features involving scanners. Just make sure that the device is secure and that its hard drive is configured not to store a history of scanning or copying jobs.
Don’t: Scan, Fax, Photocopy or Print Cash
It’s illegal. The company will run afoul of counterfeiting laws – if the device will even print at all. Modern devices are programmed to recognize the EURion constellation, a pattern of symbols that signals to a device that it’s reproducing money. Most modern devices will shut off, display an error, or simply refuse to print when it spots it.
Stay Safe and Do Better Business with Good Scanner and Faxing Etiquette
Businesses handle a variety of sensitive pieces of information, and it can be difficult to ascertain what should or should not be duplicated. Fraud is a very serious concern within the business world, but so is security. Likewise, while there are very few scanners or printers without anti-counterfeit features still in use, but many modern devices are still relatively unsecured. In general, use common sense, scan only what is necessary, and double-check when in doubt.
Keep your information safe and your company out of an accidental fraud scandal. Contact Doing Better Business today for the right equipment to safely scan and fax your data.