Is Key Duplication Illegal?

When it comes to keeping your home, business, or other property safe, having a spare key is essential. If you have a second key, you won’t be stuck trying to jiggle your way in when the first one gets lost or accidentally locked inside. Key duplication is a fast and easy process that allows you to have extra keys made quickly. However, some types of keys have a “DO NOT DUPLICATE” inscription on them that makes people wonder if it’s illegal to duplicate those keys.

This engraved message was put on many locks after the Associated Locksmiths of America, ALOA, reported that unauthorized key duplication is the single most violated security policy in businesses. The inscription gives an owner the false sense that their keys are protected from being copied by terminated employees, former tenants, construction workers, or others who might gain access to the property with a stolen key.

Despite the “DO NOT DUPLICATE” message, these keys can still be duplicated. The key cutting machine used by professional locksmiths is designed to cut keys of any shape and size. It works by placing the original key in a vise alongside a blank. Then a blade is run over the two, cutting out the shape of the new key. Finally, the new key is sanded down for a smooth finish.

There are also do-it-yourself methods for duplicating keys. The simplest is using a vice and a file to make a copy of an existing key. This isn’t a foolproof method because the key may not fit into your lock if it’s not the same type and brand. Additionally, this method won’t work on higher-security locks, such as dimple locks.

A more advanced way to duplicate a key is using a scanning device to create the key’s outline and code. This technology has been around for a while, but it has only recently been applied to keys. A team from UC San Diego recently created a program that can scan a key and recreate the code that controls it, even if the key has been damaged or destroyed.

Regardless of whether the key is damaged or not, it’s always possible to get a duplicate made. If you’re worried about someone getting into your home or business, consider asking the locksmith you use to provide a spare key. You can also ask the company that sold you your doors if they have any keys with restrictions on duplicating them, but most will honor requests to duplicate non-restricted or “Do Not Duplicate” keys without any questions asked.

If you’re in the market for a new set of door locks, check with the hardware store to see if they have any restrictions on their key copies. If they do, it might be worth paying a little more for a set that isn’t key-restricted. You can always keep a spare key with a neighbor or trusted friend in case you ever lose yours. Having a spare will save you from having to call for emergency locksmith services in the future.

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