J.S.G. Boggs, a visual and performance artist, created artworks that were “images of money”. Boggs would exchange his artwork for various goods and services, always explaining to the merchants that he is an artist and prompting them think about the meaning and uses of art and money in everyday life. There was no fraud involved. Over many years, Boggs had "spent" thousands of pictures of currency ("Boggs Bills") around the world. In 1993, after federal officials seized the bulk of the artist's life work and informed him that he could be prosecuted for violation of federal anti-counterfeiting law, Boggs challenged the constitutionality of certain provisions of the anti-counterfeiting statutes (18 U.S.C. §§ 474 and 504). Boggs claimed that 18 U.S.C. §§ 474 and 504 prohibit him from using illustrations of United States currency as vehicles for the expression of opinions and ideas in violation of his First Amendment rights.
The District Court held and the Court of Appeals affirmed:
|•||The counterfeiting provisions were constitutional because they only placed reasonable size and color limitations on illustrations of currency and did not prohibit all such illustrations.|
|•||Federal officials could prosecute Boggs because the federal anti-counterfeiting statutes do not require an intent to defraud.|
|•||A jury would be justified in finding that the artwork was in the likeness of genuine United States currency.|
In upholding the anti-counterfeiting statute, the court noted their acceptance of “Boggs' belief that money is valued, in part, because of our trust in our political institutions [and] to that end, these political institutions should be given the means by which to establish and maintain the value of United States currency.” Boggs continues to work as artist today, maintaining his belief that money is an abstract concept that can be manipulated in many ways.
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