I have always wondered why people don't take a little time when they buy art to understand what they are buying. Is it because art intimidates people? Is it because we don't know that much about it and are afraid to show our ignorance to people? I suppose I will never really know the reason. I can tell you that art is just like anything else - you do get what you pay for. I suggest that before you make a significant art purchase, you spend just a little bit of time doing research.
As a working artist, I offer both original works of art for sale as well as reproductions of my originals. I do make an effort to clearly mark the reproductions (copies) as such. I have no intentions of misleading people. I also make sure that my reproductions are called reproductions rather than prints. Why? Why does it matter? Well, a print is a totally different animal (please excuse the pun - it was too tempting) than a reproduction. A reproduction is a copy of an original work of art. Whether the original work of art is a painting, a photograph, a drawing or some other original, it can be reproduced by digital means. For example, I take a high quality photograph of one of my paintings and then use a high quality ink jet printer to produce copies of the painting. The resulting work of art is a reproduction.
A fine art print, on the other hand, usually refers to a work of art where the artist actually works on a matrix - like a wood block, a piece of linoleum, a stone, a metal plate, or a screen. That matrix essentially becomes the original work from which multiple images are printed. The artist is involved in each step of the printing process. The matrix can become worn as the prints are pulled, making the number of prints limited. An example of a fine art print maker is a friend of mine named Chad Nelson. You can see some of his beautiful work here.
Why do artists even bother with reproductions? Well, I guess I can't answer for any artist other than myself. The reason I make copies of my paintings is because my paintings take time, and the prices I need to charge in order to cover the cost of materials and the time it takes me to create the work prevents me from pricing my paintings as cheaply as they once were. Offering smaller, more affordable reproductions has allowed me to be able to sell my work to those who may not be able to afford a big original painting. I like it when people who love my work can find something they can actually afford to take home and enjoy.
From a collector's standpoint, if you can afford an original work by your favorite artist, you are always much better off buying an original than buying a reproduction. In terms of value, you are also better off buying a limited edition print (like a lithograph, a mezzotint, a woodcut or an intaglio) than a reproduction.
I hope this gives you a little better understanding of what these terms mean. If you do fancy a little reproduction of mine, you can find many of them in my etsy shop. Oh, and I do have a few smaller originals available for sale there, too. Thanks for taking a look!