If you work in an office, then likely you use a photocopier. In fact, that photocopier might function as a copier, a printer, and a scanner. Some offices lease their photocopiers, so they have tech support and the ability to upgrade easily to the latest technology. That copier may be a vital tool in getting your work done, but that copier could actually be working against you.
Last week, I learned about the EURion constellation, which is a series of small yellow dots. These dots are printed on our currency to stop counterfeiting. In addition, some book publishers are adding these dots to specific pages in their books. Why? Even though you cannot see them, these dots can signal to a copier that what you are printing was produced by someone else and stop you from making a copy. This technology was initially used to stop people from copying currency and now it is being used to stop use from copying pages out of a book. Yes, this is true. I've spoken to a librarian who is dealing with this. Even if your copying would be considered Fair Use, those yellow dots will stop you if you try to copy a page where they exist.
Yes, this is a form of digital rights management, but a sneaky form because it is being imposed on you without your agreement. This could stop you from exercising Fair Use or completing an interlibrary loan request, for example.
You might be tempted to take a book to your copier and see if you can make copies. Here's the problem. I can't tell you if that book in your hands has those yellow dots and I can't tell you if your copier would even recognize them.
Now...let's take this to the "next level." Your color photocopier could also be placing these yellow dots on the items that you print, without your knowledge. Those documents could then be traced back to your specific copier. Yes, this has occurred.
I'm still learning about this. Below are links to articles and videos that will help you know more. The video below is quite helpful.
By the way, if you already had a run-in with the EURion Constellation, I'd be interested in knowing how it occurred. Did you know what was happening? Did you think your copier was broken? What did you do next?
- Wikipedia. EURion constellation.
- EFF. Printer Tracking.
- EFF. (2008) EFF's "Yellow Dots of Mystery" on Instructables.
- EFF. (2017) Printer Tracking Dots Back in the News.
- Steven J. Murdoch. (2004) Software Detection of Currency - Contains examples.
- Joe. Avella. (2017) Here's why it's impossible to scan or photocopy money.
- Wendover Productions. (2016) TWL #9: The Secret Anti-Counterfeit Symbol. (4 min. video)
- Matthew Dunn. (2017) From five dollar notes to word documents, here are the secret codes hidden in plain sight.