View Full Version : "It is Unlawful to Duplicate this Key"

01-13-2001, 06:49 PM
I was in a hardware store today and looked at the key rack. On it were keys of every sort and it caught my eye that they had thousands of key blanks inscribed with "IT IS UNLAWFUL TO DUPLICATE THIS KEY".

I have several apartment keys with this same inscription (some of which I really need to duplicate). My questions are: Is there really such a law or is this merely a scare tactic to keep apartment tenants and college students from causing a security risk by giving keys to all of their frends? If it really is against the law to make copies of these keys, then what sort of documentation do you need before it is legal to make one lawfully?

01-13-2001, 07:00 PM
Professional locksmiths will not duplicate a key that is so marked. You must have a registered account with the individual or establishment who originally cut the key to be able to have any more of them made.

Bill H.
01-13-2001, 07:06 PM
Or you can use the old trick: put masking tape over the top of the key and write "garage" on it.

01-13-2001, 09:53 PM
Actually it all depends on the actual keyway and grooving.
Some keys such as Medeco and other high security locksets have a patented and restricted keyway. They own the patent and they control the manufacture of the keys until their patent runs out.
Some keys such as the Best locks the keys can and do get dupicated by locksmiths all the time since they have been around a while and have had their patent run its course.
US postal Service keys are another key that is restricted to duplicate.


01-13-2001, 10:17 PM
Though I've not tried, I'm sure it would be extremely difficult to get the keys to the narcotic boxes on nurse's medicine carts copied. I once thought I had locked my set in one of the narc boxes, and the maintainence guy said it might take a couple of days to get a new one made. Considering the stringent control on the numerous controlled substances contained in the box, it seems as if that would cause a problem.

01-13-2001, 10:33 PM
To clarify Osip's answer.
It's ok to duplicate the key to your mailbox, even if it is one for a post office owned box. It is NOT ok to duplicate the key used by empolyees to open the BACK of the mailboxes.

01-13-2001, 10:51 PM
The back of the P.O. boxes aren't locked. They're simply open slots where the employees place the mail in the appropriate box. The only way you can get another key to your P.O. box is to 1) Be the registered owner of the address., and 2) Pay a $1.50 or so fee. I had to pay that fee when my fiance started using my box a few months ago when she moved in. I have an aunt who is a high-ranking postal official in her post office, and I can vouch for the fact that the ends of the P.O. boxes facing the inside of the post office are open and offer easy accessibility to postal employees placing mail into the boxes.

01-13-2001, 11:03 PM
I think there might be a bit of confusion here between P.O. boxes and post office controlled boxes, like you find at an apartment complex. The latter don't have a slot in the back, they have a master key, which dragonlady is saying can't be duplicated.

01-13-2001, 11:21 PM
Gotcha..I didn't realize what type of P.O. boxes that were being referred to. Those particularly do have a master key in back, which the ones located in post offices do not. Sorry about the confusion.

01-14-2001, 12:16 PM
Yep, that's what I meant. I wasn't sure how to expalin the difference. We call the "outside the office" boxes, NBUs or nested box units, or cluster boxes. THAT key, and the one that opens the blue drop boxes cannot be duplicated. If you receive your mail in an NBU, you can duplicate the key that opens YOUR box, I have one!

01-14-2001, 06:15 PM
I dunno. I used to get keys duped all the time, even with that notation. Maybe I just have an honest face??

Seriously. When I ran the correction center, we had all sorts of keys all marked 'do not duplicate' and I went and got them copied half a dozen times or more. Once the guy even asked me about it, I told him what they were for and I worked there etc. He shrugged and made the copy.

01-14-2001, 06:55 PM
Somewhere between August 1 and September 15th of this past year, I attempted to have such a key duplicated. It was a Medeco, like a bazillion others. I was told by the locksmith on 9th Avenue the following:

This key was made with a specific pattern master. I do not own that pattern master. Only the locksmith HIRED to make this series of locks has that master, and can duplicate it. GO talk to him". He wasn't being a prick, he literally did NOT have the Pattern Master to dupe that key.

Interesting, no?


p.s. I must say, I almost BURST out laughing when he gave me this speech. All I could think of was the line from "Ghostbuster"- " I'm the Gatekeeper, YOU'RE the Keymaster, He must be Zule !! "

01-14-2001, 06:56 PM
MAKE this series of LOCKS? Oh god, I need to proofread. Obviously it should have read, " make this series of KEYS". Sorry, all


01-14-2001, 09:55 PM
FWIW, a couple of related thoughts.

First, does anyone else recall from a couple of years ago when the Feds issued a bulletin alerting the public to, and soliciting information about, a theft which involved such a sensitive item that they could not describe it in the bulletin? It turned out the missing items were a couple of keys that open (Wow! I learned some trade jargon on this thread) NBUs.

Another observation. Copyrighted base maps can be purchased in paper form in my industry. When purchased as such, the purchaser has only the right to use that paper copy and they typically include some legal language to that effect in the legend as well as having a bold stamp or two somewhere out in the middle of the map that says something like "NO REPRODUCTION RIGHTS" or "DO NOT COPY." Those admonitions have never caused a reprographics company to refuse to make a copy of said map.

01-15-2001, 12:24 AM
I've gotten a few of those DND keys made. And yes the masking tape with an address is what i use. They don't bother with pulling the tape off.

01-15-2001, 12:41 AM
Losing or having stolen one of those keys ( trade jargon alert -"arrow keys" ) is the kiss of death for a carrier. Each key is labels to a specific route and are signed in and out every day. There is more than one nationwide, but I don't know how many. I DO know that neighboring offices have different ones. I've been on a route where I didn't turn around at the right place and tried to open an NBU belonging to the next district. No dice. Still, having to change every lock on every NBU in an entire zip code is time consuming and man-hour expensive.

01-15-2001, 01:55 PM
"On it were keys of every sort and it
caught my eye that they had thousands of key blanks inscribed with "IT IS UNLAWFUL TO

Isn't that a paradox? If you cant duplicate the key, why do they make keys for duplication?

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