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I Made Copies

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"The great thing about lawyers is, they make LOTS of copies."
Chris McLean, Total Drama

Bob realizes that he was caught into some type of trap or blackmail. Unfortunately, he has signed a contract. Bob goes to Alice, who tricked him and demands what the problem is. Alice points out all of the obvious not obvious statements in the contract, which leads Bob to rip up the contract in Alice's face. Alice's not too mad about it, since she made tons of copies. If used for blackmail or media release, this can be used in by a significantly smart character to avert the Genre Blind response to Have You Told Anyone Else?. In pre-digital media involving blackmail photos, expect the blackmailer to say something like "I have the negatives."

When this happens with a character, see Expendable Clone. Contrast No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup. Compare Can't Stop the Signal.


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  • A variation in Atomic Blonde. The Action Prologue has a British agent being murdered for The List he's carrying of double agents. As a result his colleague refuses to help the Stasi turncoat who provided The List because he's now worthless, until the Stasi guy reveals that he memorized the entire List, making him a Living MacGuffin from then on.
  • Colonel Mustard and Wadsworth engage in this in the film Clue. Ultimately subverted, however, as the negatives are later destroyed.
  • Invoked in F/X 2: The Deadly Art of Illusion. A killer demands to know if Rollie Tyler has made any copies of the video showing him committing a murder. Tyler denies it, then 'accidentally' glances at a pile of tapes on his desk (in truth, he's only just found the evidence and hasn't had time to copy it). The killer moves to collect the tapes, giving Tyler a chance to escape.
  • Played with in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Laureline threatens to shoot one of the Doghan Daguis (a trio of alien Knowledge Brokers) to motivate the others into giving her the information she wants. However they point out that their knowledge is divided among the three of them — kill one and the information is incomplete.
  • The Unsuspected: Mr. Press is a murderer that Victor has uncovered. Rather than expose him Victor is using him as a blackmail tool to do dirty work. Victor plays the secret recording he made of Press's confession during their first meeting. When Press angrily smashes it, Victor says he made copies, and if anything happens to him a copy will go to the police.
  • The Equalizer. Robert McCall confronts two Corrupt Cops with a recording of them shaking down small businesses for money. They ask how many copies he has, and when McCall replies "One" they decide he is Too Dumb to Live...until McCall effortlessly disarms them both and informs them they're going to return the money they extorted or the tape will go to the media.
  • Checkered Ninja, Aske's Jerkass step-brother Sune attempts to blackmail him into writing a book report he has due on all three volumes of The Lord of the Rings, by stealing his notebook which contains a love poem about the local Head-Turning Beauty Jessica and threatening to publicize it. Aske (with help from the titular protagonist) tricks Sune into handing him the notebook back in exchange for a fake book report that appears to be normal on the surface but is a bit more "creative" on closer examination (such as having a passage where Gandalf pees in Gollum's mouth and kills a group of Orks by barfing on them). Aske thinks he is home free, but Sune spitefully and gleefully threatens to take revenge for the fake book report by revealing that he has prepared for this eventuality and has made a copy of the poem.

  • In Dracula, the Count breaks into the heroes' headquarters and burns the Scrapbook Story they've been keeping of the ordeal. How is the reader still able to read it? They had a backup copy in a safe. All this before the days of hard drives!
  • At the end of Flyaway by Desmond Bagley, the hero confronts the Corrupt Corporate Executive who's behind it all with the evidence proving him guilty of a long-ago murder, among other crimes. He hands the man a photocopy of one piece of evidence which is immediately thrown in the fireplace. The hero just laughs and says there's plenty more where that came from. In fact all the evidence he's producing are copies and the originals are with a solicitor with instructions on what to do if something happens to him.
  • "The Repairman", a comic sci-fi short story by Harry Harrison, had Da Chief bullying one of his men to take on a mission instead of going on leave, citing a clause in his contract, which he produces for effect. The hero draws his raygun and disintegrates it, but the computer just prints out another one. Then the Chief docks his pay for the cost of printing the copy.
  • In Ayn Rand's We The Living, Andrei Taganov blackmails Pavel Syerov by threatening to send the authorities a compromising note Syerov had written. As he realizes Syerov may have him killed and in any event is already contemplating suicide, though he does not admit this, he tells Syerov that he has made copies of the compromising note and given them to friends, with instructions that they should be sent out if Syerov doesn't keep his word.
  • Outlaw private eye Burke tells a Paedophile Priest that he has some 'love' letters that he wrote to one of his victims, that he is prepared to sell back to him for a high price (it's actually a con to gather evidence against the priest). When this trope comes up, Burke points out that it doesn't matter if he made photocopies, as he's selling the priest the originals which can be tested for age (important evidence in a child molestation case). Any photocopy could be dismissed as a fabrication.
  • This backfires in The High Crusade, with the notes on how to get back to Earth, and the person who provided them, both being destroyed in the belief that the other still exists.
  • Tragically averted in Misery. After Annie Wilkes reads the final novel of the Misery series, "Misery's Child", she leaves a seriously injured Paul Sheldon, author of the Misery series and who crashed near Annie's isolated home in rural Colorado after driving drunk, locked in a bedroom for two days in a fit of rage. When she gets back, she asks him to write a new book where Misery is brought back to life, but before that, he needs to burn his new manuscript, a novel about teenage Puerto-rican car thief in New York City. Paul refuses, but when she warns that she'll deprive him of food and the (addictive) pain medication she's been giving him, he relents, and spends the next several chapters regretting not making extra copies before leaving on his cross country trip.
  • There's More Than One Way Home: At Cesar's birthday party, Anna presents the treasure map Jack drew of Minotaur Island, showing what the boys were really doing there. Nora takes it away and shreds it into confetti. Then Anna announces that that was a photocopy, and the real map is still on her.
  • Isaac Asimov:

    Live-Action TV 
  • Blackadder II played with this. When blackmailing the Baby-Eating Bishop of Bath and Wells by showing him the paintings made of him and Percy in a sexual romp, the Bishop attempts to destroy them. Blackadder stops him, telling him that "We have the preliminary sketches."
  • In It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Mac tries to settle Dee's contract dispute by eating her only copy of the contract. When the Lawyer reveals that he now owns the deed to all of Paddy's merchandising, Mac snatches the deed and eats it. The Lawyer just laughs and says he's made hundreds of copies.
  • The Dukes of Hazzard: Boss Hogg once ate such a contract.
  • On Angel, Wesley burns Lilah's contract with Wolfram & Hart, only for a fresh copy to immediately appear in the drawer.
    Lilah: Flames wouldn't be eternal if they actually consumed anything.
  • At the end of I, Claudius, we see Nero and his mother burning Claudius's autobiography. Fortunately he made a copy and buried it.
  • Happens in I Love Lucy when Lucy tears up a paper saying that she would agree not to overspend, Ricky then pulls out a copy saying, "I made a copy."
    • In another episode, Ricky and the Mertzes burn the novel Lucy wrote starring insulting caricatures of all them. Lucy laments, "If I'd known the type of people I was dealing with, I'd have made a carbon copy"... before smiling and saying smugly, "It just so happens, I do know the type of people that I'm dealing with." She then proceeds to collect the three other copies hidden in various places around the room.
  • In Veronica Mars, when Weevil shows the blackmail material he has on the Fitzpatricks to "save" the PC Hers. When asked if he made copies he replies "Lots of them!" and comments that now the Fitzpatricks will have to keep him safe to stop them getting out.
  • Frank Drebin in Police Squad! does a Genre Savvy twist on this. In one case he has only a photostat (copy) of a piece of evidence, and the copy isn't admissible. So he instead cons the Big Bad by freely offering him the photostat as proof that he does actually have the evidence.
  • In the Sherlock episode "A Scandal in Belgravia", Irene Adler tells the CIA agents that she has hidden copies of all the secret information she extracted from her marks. Neither they nor Sherlock believe her because they think that a unique set of information would be more valuable to sell. It doesn't occur to any of them that the CIA agents are, by attempting to steal the apparently unique information at gunpoint, demonstrating the reason that this is a trope.
  • Hunter (1984).
    • In "The Hot Grounder", a private investigator blackmails the police commissioner for photographs of a homosexual affair, then the latter asks if the blackmailer made copies. The PI just smirks and says that if his friends call with another demand, he'll know they made copies. Unsurprisingly the commissioner decides to take the chance of shooting him on the spot, in the belief the PI is working alone, but Hunter and McCall interrupts before they can finish each other off.
    • A high-ranking police officer confiscates a tape which could compromise an important political figure, asking if Devane had any copies. Devane relates afterwards, "I didn't... so I made one."
  • In Hustle, episode 6 of season 6 involves the crew being blackmailed by MI5 into robbing a bank. Mickey secures collateral against MI5 in the form of a compromising video of him and an MI5 agent discussing the robbery and having sex. When he shows the video to the MI5 team, he and Ash throw tons of minidiscs at the MI5 agents, warning them they have too many copies of the video for MI5 to risk retaliating.
  • In the Babylon 5 episode "Rising Star," Captain Sheridan is forced to resign his commission in exchange for amnesty for himself and his people for their role in Babylon 5's rebellion against President Clark. This turns out to have been a Batman Gambit on his part, since he's now president of the new Interstellar Alliance, and so would have had to resign from EarthForce anyway to take up his new post. When he finds out, General Foote demands the agreement of amnesty back, only to learn that it's "someplace safe," but the reporters outside all have copies.
  • The Professionals. In "Not A Very Civil Civil Servant", a Corrupt Corporate Executive arranges for The Dragon to kill off an accountant who knows too much. Later the executive goes through the accountant's files and finds evidence that he had been making photocopies of every document as Betrayal Insurance. When The Dragon asks how he knew to look in the first place, the executive reveals that he's been taking exactly the same precautions against his smarter Dragon betraying him.
  • Cloak & Dagger (2018): Greg Pressfield, Melissa Bowen's attorney/boyfriend, is shown making multiple copies of documents on his investigation of the Roxxon disaster and putting them in a safe in his office. After a hitman hired by Roxxon kills him and burns his office, Tandy cuts open the safe with one of her light blades and retrieves the copies.
  • In one of the episodes of The Drew Carey Show leading to the wedding between Mimi, Drew's arch enemy, and his brother, Steve, she has Drew arrested for attempted murder after nearly running her over. Drew was trying shoo a bee that got into his car but she didn't believe or care, she just wanted him in prison. As it looks like Drew will be held for attempted murder, Steve comes in and reads Drew's wedding toast blasting Mimi, but it ends with Drew stating that he's willing to put aside his personal feelings if she makes Steve happy, so Mimi decides to drop the charges. When Steve and Drew are alone, Steve confesses to writing the speech, and promises not to tell anyone if Drew agrees to read it at the reception; before Drew has a chance to dispose of it, Steve says that it's not the only copy he has.
  • In an episode of Malcolm in the Middle, Reese has been making money by dancing with old ladies in a dance studio where Lois has also been taking lessons. He uses some of the money he made to buy Dewey an awesome toy, for the sake of smashing it in front of his face. At the next lesson, Dewey records Reese dancing with the old ladies, and back home as Reese taunts him over his smashed toy, he sees footage of himself dancing, and in one instant being fondled by an old lady. As Reese rushes to eject the videotape and destroy it, Dewey tells him he's made other copies, and "good luck on your assembly tomorrow."
  • Daredevil (2015). In the pilot episode, Karen Page is framed for murder after she discovers a computer file proving her company is involved in money laundering. Matt Murdock points out it would make more sense to kill Karen, unless they knew she had evidence stashed away and were trying to pressure her into giving it up. Karen denies it, but sneaks out later to retrieve a thumb drive holding a copy.
  • One of the greatest moments in the entire run of The X-Files came courtesy of this trope. The Cigarette Smoking Man was trying to recover a digital tape of stolen Top Secret computer files about aliens, and threatened to kill Mulder and Scully if Assistant Director Skinner didn't turn over the tape. Skinner did so... and then revealed that twenty Navajo men had memorized the contents of the tape, and would give that information to the news media if anything happened to Mulder or Scully.
  • Roman Empire. When Caligula takes power, he's presented with scrolls that the previous emperor kept on members of the Roman senate as blackmail material, including a list of those who voted against Caligula's family at the Treason Trials. Caligula makes a public show of burning these scrolls as a sign of reconciliation, but he later reinstates the Treason Trials and reveals that he made copies of the scrolls before burning them.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Dilbert has Mordac the Refuser telling Wally he wishes to discuss Wally's request for a computer upgrade. Mordac then proceeds to eat Wally's request right there and tells Wally they lost the paperwork. Wally proceeds to pull an entire pile of paper out of his desk saying he's glad he made seventy five extra copies.

    Video Games 
  • In Disgaea: Hour of Darkness episode 5 Maderas sends a challenge to Laharl to contend for overlordship on the back of a embarrassing photo, he threatens to scatter copies of set photo all across the Netheroworld if Laharl does not comply.

    Web Original 
  • The Onion: One article satirizes the Underdogs Never Lose trope by applying Surprisingly Realistic Outcome to a summer camp comedy. It's pointed out that even if the losers managed to dump the lawyer's car in the lake, he had copies of the papers that would close the camp.
  • This happens in RWBY Chibi when Ozpin sends Ruby on a "quest" (disproportionately dangerous errand) to retrieve the "artifact of knowledge" (his scroll) so he can delete some incriminating photos of the faculty costume party. After the students start questioning whether their missions were really necessary and Ozpin runs away, Ruby reveals that she copied the photos.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Regular Show, Benson realizes that the Peeps security system is pretty awkward around the house. That prompts him to call and demand a refund. Peeps shows him the contract and points out all the loopholes he missed. Benson begins to get angry and tears up the contract. Peeps only laughs and mentions he made copies.
  • In the first episode of Total Drama, Gwen tears up her contract when she finds out what the competition will really be like. Naturally, Chris is prepared for this.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In "Snowball Effect", SpongeBob and Patrick were having a snowball fight and Squidward, having nothing better to do, wanted to watch. But as soon as he did, they signed a peace treaty. Squidward tore it up...
      SpongeBob: That wasn't the peace treaty. That was a copy of the peace treaty.
    • In "Employee of the Month", there is a variant of this trope. SpongeBob destroys Squidward's alarm clock because he doesn't want him to get up for work. Then Squidward opens a closet door to reveal it is full of spare alarm clocks for some reason.
  • In one episode of CatDog, Winslow catches Cat reading Dog's diary and video records it. Cat agrees to be Winslow's slave, but at one point destroys a video copy, only to learn that there are more copies.

    Real Life 
  • In American universities, it's standard practice for graders to make photocopies of tests and assignments before returning them to students since students have been known to alter their answers and appeal for a better grade.
  • Similar to the above, many universities or schools will make a policy of not returning final examinations to students for a set length of time. Grades will be made available and students allowed to review their scores with the instructor (by request), but the actual examination is required to remain on file until the student no longer has the option of appealing.
  • Truth in Television: Lawyers will always have a copy of whatever document someone wishes didn't exist. Corporations and certain other entities are required to keep documentation of their activities for a certain period of time, which is very useful if you're the party doing the "blackmailing" (i.e., suing).
  • Intelligence agencies attempt to avert this trope as much as possible. In an emergency situation, such as an attack against an embassy, at least one person will be tasked with destroying as much documentation as possible, continuing even if the walls come down.