Certified Copies

Definition of ‘original document’, copy’, and an electronic document’  


The Justices of the Peace Act 2002 does not define what is meant by an ‘original document’ or a ‘copy’. The following definitions are provided as a guide, to assist JPs in their decisions about certifying copies of original documents.


Original document


An original document is the actual record of text or images made directly by the author or issuer of the document, which is later used to make a copy. An original document can be either printed or in electronic form.


An issuing authority may produce more than one version of a document, and all such versions are considered ‘original’ for the purposes of this handbook. For example, a person’s birth certificate issued shortly after his/her birth by the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages is an original document. If many years later the Registry produces a duplicate birth certificate to replace one that was lost, that document is also an original, because it is also an ‘actual record’ made directly by the issuer

A paper original is usually different from a photocopy or other printed reproduction

(although it may be difficult to tell the difference between an original and a copy if a JP is shown a high-quality photocopy). Indicators that a printed document is an original could include that it:

  • appears on official letterhead or
  • contains an official logo, seal or watermark or
  • includes a handwritten signature or inked stamp of the issuing authority.




Copy’ means a reproduction (of the original document) on paper or similar, and made by a photocopier or other machine with equivalent document copying and printing functions. It does not include a reproduction of the document that is hand- written or hand-drawn, or a mere transcription of the content of the original.


Electronic document


An ‘electronic document’ is any electronic file format that contains writing, numbers, images, symbols, marks, drawings, maps or plans, and which can be reproduced on paper or similar


Alternatives to a certified copy of an electronic original document


In some circumstances, some might recommend against certifying a copy of an electronic original document.

However there may be alternatives to a certified copy.

For example, the person asking you to certify a copy could instead:

  • make a statutory declaration, attaching the copy as an annexure and declaring that it is a true copy of the original that exists only in electronic form. You could witness the person making that declaration (but would still be prohibited from certifying the copy), or
  • if the electronic original is an email or attached to an email, the person could forward the email directly to the organisation that requested the certified copy. It would then be a matter for that organisation to decide whether or not to accept the forwarded email, or to make its own enquiries about it.


To avoid wasted time and effort, the person asking you to certify a copy should first discuss the proposed alternative with the organisation who requires the certified copy