A hard copy is a physical copy of a document, whereas a soft copy is a digital copy of a document. Both copies provide the same information.
A soft copy of a document is typically used for mass production and distribution. Hard copies are copies that can be read without the use of a special device. A good example to distinguish the two is a word document that is typed up on a computer. The computer file is a soft copy of the document. When the computer file is printed, the paper copy becomes the hard copy of the computer file.