You’ve probably seen it before, but maybe you didn’t notice until you needed to make a copy. Your key says “do not duplicate,” so what does that mean for your copy?
Here’s everything you need to know about your “do not duplicate” key and what to do when you need a copy.
Why does my key say “do not duplicate”?
Cutting a key that says “do not duplicate” is typically an effort by landlords, homeowners, business owners, and others to deter locksmiths from making copies of the original key. People often use these keys to warn against duplicating their keys without permission.
Many believe that cutting a key that says “do not duplicate” will protect their assets (home, business, rented property) from unauthorized visitors. Unfortunately, a key that says “do not duplicate” is no more secure than any other key.
The counterargument to that is the psychological effect that the phrase has on folks, which we can not quantify. Afterall, you’re here for these answers, right? We can assume that others know the guidelines for this type of key but hope to sway the rest of us based on legal uncertainty.
Can you copy a key that says do not duplicate?
So your key says “do not duplicate,” but can you make a copy anywhere?
In short, yes, you can still get a copy of your “do not duplicate” key, with few exceptions. Some keys have a patent-protected design that requires a permit to copy and can only be copied by locksmiths with those permits. Most keys that say “do not duplicate” are no more secure than a key that does not.
ALOA, The Associated Locksmiths of America, in their Technical Standards Policy version 2.3, gives the following guidance:
“Orders for keys stamped “Do Not Duplicate” or similar wording will be handled in the same manner as any unrestricted key (see 8). ALOA members should inform the consumer that the use of keys stamped “Do Not Duplicate”, or similar wording, is not effective security,”
Do not duplicate keys do not require special equipment to duplicate, so as long as your key-cutter or locksmith knows the law, they will copy the key. However, not every business you ask will make this copy for you.
Where can I make a copy of my “do not duplicate” key
In this case, some chain hardware stores, which you might be relying on for simple key cutting jobs, may not duplicate your key. While it is not illegal for anyone to duplicate these keys, many national hardware stores don’t duplicate them, as policy.
This is because they don’t want to assume liability in the event that these keys are duplicated for nefarious purposes. While it is not illegal, and not likely for smaller locksmiths and hardware stores, the original key holder might try to raise a civil suit in the event of damages.
While the majority of businesses would be protected by liability or property insurance, big chains don’t want the bureaucratic hassle of proving that through mitigation. They also don’t want to invest the time and resources into challenges like these, since key cutting for individuals is a service they provide en masse.
The good news is your local locksmith will always know when they can cut your key, because they are experts in that industry.
What kind of keys cannot be copied?
There are some types of keys that can not be duplicated. So, if you’re learning for the first time that your tenant or employee can copy your front door key as many times as they want, try not to panic.
“Restricted keys” cannot be duplicated, except by the original manufacturer with security steps in place. These keys are covered by U.S. patent laws and can only be copied with ID verification. Courts can assess up to a $10,000 fine for people that violate these laws.
There are master key systems and other key management and hardware solutions for your keying challenge. At Brookline Lock, we specialize in key duplication and other services designed to make the lives of project managers, real estate agents, contractors, and commercial property owners easier.
You have many options for the space you want to secure, including your chosen keys. Get in touch with us today to find solutions to your lock and key management challenges. After nearly a century in business, we’ll know what to do!