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3 The Central Law Journal 587
September 15, 1876

    Photographic Copies of Documents

  1. The Supreme Court of Michigan in In re Foster, 3 Am. Law Times Rep. 411, have recently held that photographic copies of manuscript are only secondary evidence like any copies, and that it is not error to exclude them from the consideration of the jury, where the original is at hand. It would not, say the court, be true to say that every photographic copy would be safe on any enquiry requiring minute accuracy. Few copies can be so satisfactory as a good photograph. But all artists are not competent to make such pictures on a large scale and all photographs are not absolutely faithful resemblances. It is quite possible to tamper with them, and an impression which is at all blurred would be very apt to mislead on questions of handwriting, where forgery is claimed. Whether it would or would not be permissible to allow such documents to be used, their use can never be compulsory. The original, and not the copy, is what the jury must act upon, and no device can properly be allowed to supersede it. Copies of any kind are merely secondary evidence. However fortunate it may be that copies can now be produced which will closely resemble originals, it would be an unauthorized assumption to hold that courts should be compelled to receive additional and supplementary proofs, which were neither necessary nor admissible before, and which are at best merely convenient aids to enable juries to dispense with the use of the primary evidence.