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While I worked at Walmart during college in the states, we would copy keys for customers, unless the key looked like this.

enter image description here

We were told that it was illegal to copy such keys, however, customers would regularly tell us it was in fact legal.

Are there any laws that prevent the copying of keys containing a DO NOT DUPLICATE stamp? Asking as this seems to be a claim in the US, But if anyone has a similar claim in their own country feel free to post that as well.

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It is hard to prove a negative, but the Associated Locksmiths of America says:

Orders for keys stamped “Do Not Duplicate” or similar wording will be handled in the same manner as any unrestricted key (see 8).

Paragraph 8 says:

For individual, personal property or unrestricted locks, keys, or other qualifying device, the possession of a the qualifying device itself establishes the authority to order duplicates or recombinate cylinders operated by such devices, unless the cylinders or systems are found to be master keyed (see 10) or of a restricted type (see 12), or unless the service technician suspects some wrongful intent. (See 9).

In summary, the Associated Locksmiths of America suggests that keys marked "DO NOT DUPLICATE" may be duplicated unless:

  • the key is part of a patented/restricted key control system,
  • part of a master-key system, or
  • the technician suspects wrongful intent.

I would have expected the Associated Locksmiths of America to mention a law restricting duplication if such law exists.

Several locksmiths agree:


The above is the general case, but there are some jurisdictions with laws that are implicated by a "DO NOT DUPLICATE" engraving.

In North Dakota, "... no person shall duplicate or make a key from another key marked with the words "Do Not Duplicate", "Do Not Copy", or words of similar intent". (ND Code 12.1-23-08.4).

Nebraska mentions the "DO NOT DUPLICATE" label, but it is only an offense if the key is a master key, and it is not unlawful to reproduce a key if "[a]nyone stamps any other type of key with the words DO NOT DUPLICATE." (Nebraska Revised Statute 28-1316)

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After doing some brief research, I found that it can be illegal in (at least) California - @DavePhD mentions in comments that similar laws also exist for North Dakota and Nebraska, and may exist for other states as well.

6980.54. (a) A locksmith licensed by the bureau shall be subject to the provisions of Section 466.6 of the Penal Code, and shall be able to duplicate any key for any vehicle from another key. (b) A locksmith licensed by the bureau shall be subject to the provisions of Section 466.8 of the Penal Code, and shall be able to duplicate any key for a residence, commercial establishment, or personal property from another key, except as follows: (1) Duplication is prohibited when a key is stamped, imprinted, marked, or incised with the wording "Do Not Duplicate" or "Unlawful To Duplicate" and includes the originator's company name and telephone number. (2) Duplication is prohibited when a key is a Restricted Key or a High Security Key and includes the originator's company name and telephone number or registration number.

Source


Generally, keys marked like this are for apartments or other commercial locks, so from @nomenagentis's answer,

the technician suspects wrongful intent

is a very likely suspicion when the key is marked in this way. While this is just speculation and I'm not sure how one would find out exactly, I would guess that Wal-mart (and many other locksmiths) just make this a company-wide policy to be safe.

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