Open Discussion On Product Activation

vitamin_D wrote on 10/6/2003, 11:03 AM
kimhill, a regular poster over at, has noted that Adobe has started to implement product activation for their software. As kim says:

I know that piracy is a big problem, but this is a bummer.

It is indeed a bummer, and for many users of Vegas 3.0 it was a reason to jump ship to another platform when it was implemented by SoFo. Consequently, I can't say it did my ulcers good for a time to know that SoFo's future was in doubt, and that with their eventual dissolution, so too was the future of my copy of Vegas 4.

You can construct a few different scenarios wherein software you've payed for becomes inert, totally useless, as there are several (potentially fragile) links in the chain required to get key codes that match up to your system's profile -- yet everyone informed me that these worries hold little water as I don't actually own any software I've purchased :/

How do you feel about Sony's implementation of key-code activation, and if it rubs you the wrong way, what can be done?

Here is the link to the original thread (you need to have a account to view):

Here's a link to an interesting story about Intuit dropping product activation after customer backlash:,3973,1088341,00.asp

Here's fairly good writings on product activation:,3668,a=42420,00.asp

- jim


Grazie wrote on 10/6/2003, 11:48 AM
VD - I don't understand your 4th paragraph. Please explain.

Chienworks wrote on 10/6/2003, 12:07 PM
Grazie: are you referring to the "I don't actually own any software I've purchased" part? This is generally true. Normally one doesn't purchase software. The producers/developers/publishers of the software retain complete ownership of it. What one purchases is a license which grants the use of the software. The copy of the software that you download and install still belongs to the seller, not to the customer. This is quite standard in the software industry and actually very sensible. For that matter, when you "buy" a movie at the store you're really only buying the tape/disc (medium) that contains the movie and permission to watch it; the movie studio still owns the movie (content) itself.

However, that doesn't negate the concerns over product activation. The concern moves to the ability to continue using the license you've paid for, not the actual software itself. However, this concern is no less valid or meaningful. True, we've never owned the SONY software we're running on our computers, but if the product activation scheme prevents us from using the software as permitted by the licenses we own, then the problem still exists and we no longer have use of what we've paid for.
TheHappyFriar wrote on 10/6/2003, 12:24 PM
The only problem i've had with the activation is that I am REQUIRED to register. Not just to use the mpeg stuff, but if you don't register a downloaded copy after 30 days it stops working (i used my bought serial # though). That is annoying.

The real problem is this: If Sony stops the product line, what will we do? When EA closed Westwood Studios, the Westwood On-Line service was shut down. That was the only way you could play their older games (pre-2002) online. So what happened? EA gave fans the ability to run on-line servers, which gave people the ability to play online again.

Luckly, thanks to illegal hackers, if this happens i'm sure we all could find a key-gen or something to use our wonderfull Vegas in this case. :)

Cheesehole wrote on 10/6/2003, 12:49 PM
This is one of many reasons we fight to keep the information free. I would be very VERY concerned if there weren't cracks readily available for Vegas. No one can predict what will happen. If there is a nuclear winter, I'm going to be a very unhappy person if I can't sit in my bunker and make videos with Vegas.

We take it for granted that the registration process will always be working when we need it. It's really disgusting to me that Sonic Foundry hasn't released updates for Vegas 2 and 3 that disable the required registration process. After a product life is over, the hard core copy protection should be disabled. It wouldn't surprise me at all if someday I went to register Vegas 2 (WHICH IS REQUIRED TO RENDER TO WM6.4 AKA: My LIVELIHOOD) and it simply didn't work anymore and there was no one around that could fix it. It WILL happen someday. It's just a matter of when, and whether we can we predict it or not.
baysidebas wrote on 10/6/2003, 1:50 PM
We vote with our pocketbooks. VV4 is the last Vegas version I will ever purchase if activation is carried forward. Just as Win2K is the last Windows OS on my machine. Adobe products? I can function just well with what I have now. Same goes for Office and many other applications.

What concerns me is that I am constantly upgrading/changing my hardware. Schemes such as Microsoft's where you have to reactivate after a particular number of changes are made is a hassle I don't think I deserve after having paid for the use of the software. Oh, I've been told "But it's straightforward and takes less than 5 minutes of your time." My answer, and it shuts up the teller dead in his tracks, is to tell him "I run approximately 40 applications on a regular basis, at 5 five minutes per, that's quite a burden and an intolerable imposition."

I don't think that there is anything out there that I couldn't live without, given the state of software in general and the smallish incremental improvements with version upgrades.
Grazie wrote on 10/6/2003, 2:21 PM
Chienworks, I guess you knew I knew this.

However, in asking the question makes me think that what on earth are we buying - in actuality.

As you say, if I understand you correctly, we "purchase" a licence to use the software - none of us own the s/w. If the licence which we purchase is only of value "while" the s/w is active then the licence is part of the "value" of the value of the s/w? No licence, no s/w - surely? Are you also saying that this passport to using the s/w - the licence - was bought by me knowing that at a certain time, determined by the "owner" of the s/w, this licence would be of no value, that is that it would no longer activate the s/w present on my pc?

My way of thinking is that I've purchased a licence to use the s/w. Can someone please explain under what circumstances would I buy a licence not to have the value of the s/w working on my computer. Why on Earth would I do this?

I'm sure this point must have been done to death countless times. If I'm showing my ignorance - it doesn't bother me. But why on earth would I buy something that would not deliver the goods for which I purchased the licence for and would then not allow me to operate this same s/w?

Thanking you all for your patience

winrockpost wrote on 10/6/2003, 2:44 PM
Not a big deal to me,, so you make a call or go online. Have to for updates anyway.
Cheesehole wrote on 10/6/2003, 2:55 PM
>>>Not a big deal to me,, so you make a call or go online. Have to for updates anyway.

Thank you! You've proven my point about people taking it for granted that the server wil always be running or the company who runs the license management will always be there. Of course it's no big deal when it works perfectly and doesn't require a second thought. Some of us have this nasty habit of thinking AHEAD though :)
vitamin_D wrote on 10/6/2003, 3:26 PM
"My way of thinking is that I've purchased a licence to use the s/w. Can someone please explain under what circumstances would I buy a licence not to have the value of the s/w working on my computer. Why on Earth would I do this?"

I think you're missing the point, Grazie. None of us are arguing that we'd like to buy licenses to not use software -- quite the contrary -- we're arguing that the license will be put at odds (broken) given a set of variables that all have differing probability. In other words, I and others foresee circumstances in which the value of the license which we've paid for will be negated.

The easiest of such circumstances to recognize would be: say I have a system hard drive fail, and have to re-install Windows. This will change the activation code. If the Sony servers are down, and/or are buggy (I've had poor luck securing an automated key-code in the past), what am I to do? Especially if I have to meet a product deadline, especially if phoning Sony's tech support is out of the question (i.e. I do a lot of video work on weekends)

As others have noted, now extend speculation beyond this point -- who determines when my license "expires," and how rightful will it be for a company to force me to upgrade by spending more money on their products? What happens if the future of a given company (in this case Sonic Foundry) is in question? What constitutes "fair use"?

There's a whole potential mess of problems that arise that are outside the domain of mere financial concern when companies are handed all, or even the majority, of power in these circumstances. And this is why people like me are more interested in seeing the rights fall to the favor of consumers.

- jim
winrockpost wrote on 10/6/2003, 4:51 PM
Cheese, if the support died so would my use of

vegas,,, I think ahead also,, thats why i use several apps only thing i take for granted regarding software is that it always changes
Grazie wrote on 10/6/2003, 5:00 PM
VD - Understood. My point was a tad ironic and not without a little sarcasm - "None of us are arguing that we'd like to buy licenses to not use software " is/was to underline, IMHO, the hypothetical position of not having something we had paid for in good faith fit for the purpose it was intended. Point taken on the crashed hard drive though. Yechhh....

When a new landlord takes over possession of a block flats, don't the existing tenants have rights? Okay, my example maybe so far from being a valuable comparison that it isn't fair or of value, but do you get my drift here?

I think I'll stick to editing video . . . .

rextilleon wrote on 10/6/2003, 5:54 PM
I have no problem with activation codes etc---piracy is a huge problem and if that's the best way to assure the survival of a software company then I have no problems with it. If Sony decides to drop Vegas--so be it--thats the way the market works. If it's a dumb decision then they will lose money. If its a smart decision they will make money . What it boils down to is the crimminal code. We have laws in this country against stealing. Unfortunately, those who steal inconvience us all. Thats goes with the territory--that's capitalism. By t
Grazie wrote on 10/6/2003, 5:56 PM
Rexie! I'll drink to that one!

. . did you stop writing "By t . . . ."

Cheesehole wrote on 10/6/2003, 6:42 PM
>>> I think ahead also,, thats why i use several apps only thing i take for granted regarding software is that it always changes

Okay well that's pretty smart. But it would be really annoying if they *expired* Vegas 2. For one thing I have all my projects in Vegas format. If I want to render to WM6.4, I have to use Vegas 2.

So the argument that says the software companies are just trying to move poeple on to the latest version by having these temporarily functional products breaks down when specific functionality is no longer there in the lastest versions.

Also you are saying if the support died... well that usually happens over time usually with plenty of warning and products are usually supported for years. It would be a lot different if the registration service was suddenly unavailable permanently or semi-permanently for WHATEVER reason. It takes money to run the service, but I've ALREADY PAID for Vegas, so how can I be assured of continued service? Remove the funds, and no more registration service. Who would pay for it? I don't like being exposed to any more risk than I have to be exposed to. Vegas is a professional product. They are supposed to be on MY side.

Not a big concern with hacks available, but it sucks to have to rely on illegal software for a little peace of mind. That should come with the $400 price tag. I have enough to worry about. At least give me Vegas 2. I have a heart attack every time I install it.. waiting for the Thank you for Registering! to come up because I couldn't find a crack for Vegas 2.0a, which is what I have to install to get Windows Media 6.4 encoding.
JohnnyRoy wrote on 10/6/2003, 6:42 PM
> How do you feel about Sony's implementation of key-code activation, and if it rubs you the wrong way, what can be done?

Locks don’t keep out thieves; they only keep out honest people. Thieves know how to pick locks so they don’t worry about them. Activations codes don’t stop software pirates, they only inconvenience honest customers. Software pirates know how to crack software and don’t worry about activation codes. You are not going to change this. Sony is kidding themselves if they think their activation code is stopping piracy in any way. I think this thread is proof that all they are doing is continuing to piss off honest customers.

One would hope that if Sony dropped Vegas that they would offer a free activation code generator to existing customers, or offer a final upgrade with the key code still active (the one you install with) but with the activation code disabled since there will be no servers to activate with. I expect software to have installation key codes. I just don’t like the activation process. I also don’t purchase software that has a hardware dongle. Did it once, and will never do it again.

So you can change it by not buying the product if you feel that strongly about it as I do about hardware dongles. That’s your right to do so. Sony has a right to protect themselves from illegal copies but they must be careful that they don’t alienate customers, It’s really only the customers that are inconvenienced because the pirates have copies that work fine without activation. :(

pete_h wrote on 10/6/2003, 6:45 PM
Just a thought here, but can't you just make a mirror image of your hard drive with some sort of back-up soft-ware, and preserve your existing software?


PixelStuff wrote on 10/6/2003, 6:54 PM
So basicly what software companies are wanting is for us to rent the software from them. They assume that just because they sit around programing new features that we should pay for them to do that whether we need those features or not.

Can you imagine if the automotive industry operated like that? Currently we expect them to provide a bug free product and if it isn't bug free we expect them to recall the product and fix the problem without charge. That's basicly how the software industry works also, except it how has the potential to disable the software whenever a new version is released. Can you imagine if we had to buy new cars everytime they released a new version?

Of course some may argue that cars cost $20,000 each while software is more like $200 and that is why you get to own the car. But this is just the difference in price of material that you are seeing. In both cases the buyer is still paying more than the price of materials alone but this is partially for the research and development needed to produce the original prototype. After that, things are just duplicated on the assembly line. If you wanted to compare markup on the two categories I would say that software probably has the higher markup ratio.

The problem with software is that it is so easy for the buyer to copy and therfore have two or three cars for the price of one (so to speak). And then with all the extra cars sitting around they might give one to their friend. Eventually it gets where the company doing the R&D is only getting half of what they were hoping when the set the selling price.

If we wanted to make computers more like the automotive industry we need to rethink the way computers function. Instead of having internal hard drives to store program data and personal created information, we need to create a plug-in board to accept "application sticks". Most computers would have a bay with approximately 50 internal slots to accept "memory stick" type hardware. The memory sticks would basicly need to be as fast as and act like RAM. The computer hardware would prevent any data from being copied from these sticks and of course any bug fixes would have to be mailed to the customer free of charge on a new stick.

Personal data including customized application settings would still be stored on the usual hard drives and such. But the data on the application sticks would only be accessed on the stick itself and never copied to internal memory locations. Also if one needed more than 50 applications, an external application bay with another 100 slots could be easily added, or perhaps some cases, if they were large enough, may even have an option for an internal expansion unit.

So that is my genius idea to fix the problem. Which would be better? Software protection or hardware protection?

Cheesehole wrote on 10/6/2003, 7:00 PM
It's true that locks aren't fool proof but I still make sure my doors are locked each night (don't want to make it too easy). Honestly I think the registration system probably works to a certain extent. No one on this board would probably have much trouble finding a crack, but some "casual sharing" is most likely reduced by the activation system.

Where it works best is in the corporate environment. A lot of these people are just too lazy to get the crack :)

Let's say the new guy in the Multimedia department needs a Vegas install. They are going to do whatever takes the least amount of time. If it is easiest, they'll just install the software illegally (and possibly forget all about it and never purchase the license).

But if It's actually easier for them to purchase a bunch more licenses than to find a crack, then they'll just do that. It isn't the money, it's the time that's important. As long as Sony keeps the online purchasing system as easy and quick as possible (instant gratification) then they can really cash in.

That's probably what SoFo was after when they implemented the activation feature. They know just as well as we do that people who actually want to steal the software will still do so.

I don't condone the system, but I can't deny that it probably makes more money when executed at least as smoothly as SoFo does. I've had my share of problems with the system and I hope they improve it. For example, holding VV2 hostage is just beyond reasonable. And those of us who are constantly re-installing their OS etc have it the worst.
rextilleon wrote on 10/6/2003, 8:01 PM
Grazie----at my age you often stop in mid sentence and have no idea what you were going to say!
FIXITMAD wrote on 10/6/2003, 10:31 PM
I also have to voice my opinion regarding Product Activation. Plain and simple, it Sucks! Yes, some of you are saying I have no clue what I am talking about. Case-in-point. During the boom of the Internet I invested money by purchasing online from a company called Andover. They had created a cool app that let you create animated Gifs and many other things called VideoCraft. This particular piece of software had activation. I PAID for the software fully expecting to be able to use it now and into the future. The company is no where to be found, no email support, no phone support, nothing. Luckily I still have this software on my 486DX2 PC! Remember those! Anyway, I've installed it on my newer PC a Pentium 3, but I will not be able to use it past the trial period. Also, the Trial period disables the very functions I need!

So from previous experiences NO to Activation! I know software companies think it will prevent hackers/crackers from stealing. But over-time everything probably can be cracked. That is why the Government is always coming up with new DEC algorithms. Anyway, my fear now is with Sonic Foundry's Siren 2.0c. I've paid for this software and I fully expect to use it. But what happens when Sony decides they don't support it anymore.? I prefer using Siren 2.0c over Windows Media player anyday. My personal preference I know, but I paid for this software in good faith. I expect to use this as long as I see fit. If and when companies start telling me when I can no longer use software like Wildcat software and their BBS system, I will not purchase it. I find it amusing that many companies do not post their license agreement until you have purchased their software. None of SoFo's products EVER mentioned Product Activation as a FEATURE!.

I notice now that Symantec Anti-Virus 2004 is now indicating the product activation is a FEATURE!!. I can tell you now, that I will NOT purchase anything from Symantec if they go down this road. Sorry for this long Rant but I'm peeved. If Sony does this, I will no longer purchase software from them and I will make do with what I currently have. As a previous post suggested. If and when that day comes I may have to resort to using some "tools" that have been posted in order to continue to use the software that I PAID for. (Yes, I know License to use).
rextilleon wrote on 10/6/2003, 10:57 PM
Thats the beauty of our system--if enough people agree with you they will vote at the market place and Sony will give up on product activation. I suspect that will never happen because most of us are addicted to this application.
TheHappyFriar wrote on 10/6/2003, 11:23 PM
When I was in college, I got to use SGI's with Maya 1.0 on them. Awsome! Of course the program cost over $15,000, and it required "activation." Of course it wasn't as simple as getting a 15-30 number/letter activation code. Noooo... That would of been TO easy. You had to send them the CPU ID, MB ID, OS version, and your name. Then, and only then, they sent you a 2-5 page print out of the activation code. They also included a copy on disk (the paper was a backup). And you want to know what's worse? There was a different 2-5 page print out for ALL 17 SGI's!

Of course Alias/Wavefront didn't do that for their WinNT version of Maya. That was a simple registeration thing. And I don't think they use those complex activation codes anymore. :)

So, we kinda got off lucky. :)
BillyBoy wrote on 10/6/2003, 11:35 PM
My view is Product Activation is one of the dumbest things out there. To start with it has nearly zero impact on the real software thiefs. Anyone that's been on the Internet for awhile is well aware of warez sources for almost any software plus key generators, hacks cracks, etc.. What bugs me is the software industry KNOWS that as well. They also know that product activation schemes can be defeated and are every day. Yet they persist on doing things to irriate their customer base. So the arguement that it "protects" software companies from piracy is a poor one. As far as it being easy and/or doesn't take a lot of time, depends. If the computer you have has access to the Internet, then it easier, but what if you don't or if you have multiple computers and tons of software? If they all have some form of product activation it gets to be a royal pain. I remember that too when it comes time to upgrade.
farss wrote on 10/7/2003, 12:08 AM
Pretty much all that I can say has already been said but I''l add my vote by saying that product activation is plain dumb.

It doesn't stop piracy in fact it encourages it. Legitimate users, as has been said are scared of the activation mechanism becomig unavailable and hence go looking for a way around it. I know a lot of you will disagree with me but I would prefer the dongle approach, at least I have the means to run what I paid for the use of in the possession for eternity.

This system of activation grew out of the idea of renting software. For some high end products this was a sensible approach. There's no way I could justify the cost of purchasing an open licence for Autocad, but being able to rent a copy as needed makes sense. If I rented it for long enough then I got a key that would unlock it for good. This is a model that I could live with.

The problem with activation is not only the downside from the users point of view but also from the suppliers. They have to maintain a service in theory indefinately to keep their users running. Also these systems are not developed in house, so the software developer has to pay a hefty fee to the developers of the activation system and possibly a fee per activation.

As for the piracy issue, I'll quote Bill on this one "If they're going to pirate anyones software I'm glad its ours"

One comment I will add. I definatley think it should be mandatory that any software product that requires activation should very clearly state so. Not to do so would seem to be a violation of consummers rights. I can think of nothing else that I can purchase over the counter that I am unable to use withour a further transaction between myself and the manufacturer. In this counrty if I was selling software over the counter this would give me many sleepless nights. I have sold a product to a consummer yet even I do not have the means to make it work for that consummer yet I carry the liability for doing so by law.