Product activation

Last updated

Product activation is a license validation procedure required by some proprietary software programs. Product activation prevents unlimited free use of copied or replicated software. Unactivated software refuses to fully function until it determines whether it is authorized to fully function. Activation allows the software to stop blocking its use. An activation can last "forever", or it can have a time limit, requiring a renewal or re-activation for continued use.

Contents

Implementations

In one form, product activation refers to a method invented by Ric Richardson and patented ( U.S. Patent 5,490,216 ) by Uniloc where a software application hashes hardware serial numbers and an ID number specific to the product's license (a product key) to generate a unique installation ID. This installation ID is sent to the manufacturer to verify the authenticity of the product key and to ensure that the product key is not being used for multiple installations.

Alternatively, the software vendor sends the user a unique product serial number. When the user installs the application it requests that the user enter their product serial number, and checks it with the vendor's systems over the Internet. The application obtains the license limits that apply to that user's license, such as a time limit or enabling of product features, from the vendor's system and optionally also locks the license to the user's system. Once activated the license continues working on the user's machine with no further communication required with the vendor's systems. Some activation systems also support activation on user systems without Internet connections; a common approach is to exchange encrypted files at an Internet terminal.

An early example of product activation was in the MS-DOS program D'Bridge Email System written by Chris Irwin, a commercial network system for BBS users and Fidonet. The program generated a unique serial number which then called the author's BBS via a dialup modem connection. Upon connection, the serial number was validated. A unique "key" was returned which allowed the program to continue for a trial period. If two D'Bridge systems communicated using the same key, the software deliberately crashed. The software has long since had the entire activation system removed and is now freeware by Nick J. Andre, Ltd.

Microsoft

Microsoft Product Activation was introduced in the Brazilian version of Microsoft Office 97 Small Business Edition [1] and Microsoft Word 97 sold in the Hungarian market. It broadened that successful pilot with the release of Microsoft Publisher 98 in the Brazilian market. [1] Microsoft then rolled out product activation in its flagship Microsoft Office 2000 product. All retail copies sold in Australia, Brazil, China, France, and New Zealand, and some sold in Canada and the United States, required the user to activate the product via the Internet. [1] [2] However, all copies of Office 2000 do not require activation after April 15, 2003. [3] After its success, the product activation system was extended worldwide and incorporated into Windows XP and Office XP and all subsequent versions of Windows and Office. Despite independently developing its own technology, in April 2009 a jury found Microsoft to have willfully infringed Uniloc's patent. However, in September 2009, US District Judge William Smith "vacated" the jury's verdict and ruled in favour of Microsoft. [4] This ruling was subsequently overturned in 2011.

Blocking

Software that has been installed but not activated does not perform its full functions, and/or imposes limits on file size or session time. Some software allows full functionality for a limited "trial" time before requiring activation. Unactivated software typically reminds the user to activate, at program startup or at intervals, and when the imposed size or time limits are reached. (Some unactivated software has taken disruptive actions such as crashing or vandalism, but this is rare.)

Some 'unactivated' products act as a time-limited trial until a product keya number encoded as a sequence of alphanumeric charactersis purchased and used to activate the software. Some products allow licenses to be transferred from one machine to another using online tools, without having to call technical support to deactivate the copy on the old machine before reactivating it on the new machine.

Software verifies activation every time it starts up, and sometimes while it is running. Some software even "phones home", checking a central database (across the Internet or other means) to check whether the specific activation has been revoked. Some software might stop working or reduce functionality if it cannot connect to the central database.

Criticisms

See also

Related Research Articles

Spyware describes software with malicious behavior that aims to gather information about a person or organization and send such information to another entity in a way that harms the user. For example, by violating their privacy or endangering their device's security. This behavior may be present in malware as well as in legitimate software. Websites may engage in spyware behaviors like web tracking. Hardware devices may also be affected. Spyware is frequently associated with advertising and involves many of the same issues. Because these behaviors are so common, and can have non-harmful uses, providing a precise definition of spyware is a difficult task.

Windows XP Personal computer operating system by Microsoft released in 2001

Windows XP is an operating system produced by Microsoft as part of the Windows NT family of operating systems. It was the direct successor to both Windows 2000 for professional users and Windows Me for home users, and it was released to manufacturing on August 24, 2001, with retail sales beginning on October 25, 2001. It was Microsoft's operating system for use on personal computers such as home and business desktops, laptops, tablet PCs and media center PCs until replaced by Windows Vista in February 2007.

Copy protection, also known as content protection, copy prevention and copy restriction, describes measures to enforce copyright by preventing the reproduction of software, films, music, and other media.

Windows Update Software update distribution service for Microsoft Windows

Microsoft Windows Update is a Microsoft service for the Windows 9x and Windows NT families of operating system, which automates downloading and installing Microsoft Windows software updates over the Internet. The service delivers software updates for Windows, as well as the various Microsoft antivirus products, including Windows Defender and Microsoft Security Essentials. Since its inception, Microsoft has introduced two extensions of the service: Microsoft Update and Windows Update for Business. The former expands the core service to include other Microsoft products, such as Microsoft Office and Microsoft Expression Studio. The latter is available to business editions of Windows 10 and permits postponing updates or receiving updates only after they have undergone rigorous testing.

Software protection dongle

A software protection dongle is an electronic copy protection and content protection device. When connected to a computer or other electronics, they unlock software functionality or decode content. The hardware key is programmed with a product key or other cryptographic protection mechanism and functions via an electrical connector to an external bus of the computer or appliance.

Product key

A product key, also known as a software key, is a specific software-based key for a computer program. It certifies that the copy of the program is original.

Retail software is computer software typically installed on PC-type computers or more recently delivered via the Internet. Traditionally this software was delivered via physical data storage media sold to end consumer but very few companies still provide their software using physical media. The software is typically sold under restricted licenses or in the case of cloud-based software sold as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model.

Traitor tracing schemes help trace the source of leaks when secret or proprietary data is sold to many customers. In a traitor tracing scheme, each customer is given a different personal decryption key. (Traitor tracing schemes are often combined with conditional access systems so that, once the traitor tracing algorithm identifies a personal decryption key associated with the leak, the content distributor can revoke that personal decryption key, allowing honest customers to continue to watch pay television while the traitor and all the unauthorized users using the traitor's personal decryption key are cut off.)

Windows Genuine Advantage

Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) is an anti-infringement system created by Microsoft that enforces online validation of the licensing of several Microsoft Windows operating systems when accessing several services, such as Windows Update, and downloading Windows components from the Microsoft Download Center. WGA consists of two components: an installable component called WGA Notifications that hooks into Winlogon and validates the Windows license upon each logon and an ActiveX control that checks the validity of the Windows license when downloading certain updates from the Microsoft Download Center or Windows Update. WGA Notifications covers Windows XP and later, with the exception of Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP Professional x64 Edition. The ActiveX control checks Windows 2000 Professional licenses as well.

In software licensing, a volume licensing is the practice of selling a license authorizing one computer program to be used on a large number of computers or by a large number of users. Customers of such licensing schemes are typically business, governmental or educational institutions, with prices for volume licensing varying depending on the type, quantity and applicable subscription-term. For example, Microsoft software available through volume-licensing programs includes Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office.

A client access license (CAL) is a commercial software license that allows client computers to use server software services. Most commercial desktop apps are licensed so that payment is required for each installation, but some server products can be licensed so that payment is required for each device or user that accesses the service provided by the software. For example, an instance of Windows Server 2016 for which ten User CALs are purchased allows 10 distinct users to access the server.

Criticism of Windows XP deals with issues with security, performance and the presence of product activation errors that are specific to the Microsoft operating system Windows XP.

System Locked Pre-installation, often abbreviated as SLP, also referred to as OEM Activation, is a procedure used by major OEM computer-manufacturers in order to pre-activate Microsoft Windows before mass distribution.

Ric Richardson is an Australian inventor recognised for his early invention of a form of product activation used in anti-piracy. He is the inventor of record for a number of U.S. patents, including the Uniloc patent US5490216 and the Logarex patent 6400293. Richardson grew up in Sydney and currently resides in Byron Bay.

Proprietary software, also known as non-free software or closed-source software, is computer software for which the software's publisher or another person reserves some rights from licensees to use, modify, share modifications, or share the software. It sometimes includes patent rights.

Bundling of Microsoft Windows is the installation of Microsoft Windows in computers before their purchase. Microsoft encourages original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) of personal computers to include Windows licenses with their products, and agreements between Microsoft and OEMs have undergone antitrust scrutiny. Users opposed to the bundling of Microsoft Windows have sought refunds for Windows licenses, arguing that the Windows end-user license agreement entitles them to return unused Windows licenses for a cash refund. Although some customers have successfully obtained payments, others have been less successful.

A hardware restriction is content protection enforced by electronic components. The hardware restriction scheme may complement a digital rights management system implemented in software. Some examples of hardware restriction information appliances are video game consoles, smartphones, tablet computers, Macintosh computers and personal computers that implement secure boot.

Microsoft Product Activation DRM mechanism used by Microsoft

Microsoft Product Activation is a DRM technology used by Microsoft Corporation in several of its computer software programs, most notably its Windows operating system and its Office productivity suite. The procedure enforces compliance with the program's end-user license agreement by transmitting information about both the product key used to install the program and the user's computer hardware to Microsoft, inhibiting or completely preventing the use of the program until the validity of its license is confirmed.

<i>Uniloc USA, Inc. v. Microsoft Corp.</i>

Uniloc USA, Inc. v. Microsoft Corp., 632 F.3d 1292, was a patent lawsuit originally filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island.

References

  1. 1 2 3 "Microsoft Extends Anti-Piracy Features in Office 2000". Microsoft.com. 1998-12-09. Retrieved 2013-05-15.
  2. "Microsoft Incorporates New Anti-Piracy TechnologiesIn Windows 2000, Office 2000". Microsoft.com. 2000-02-10. Retrieved 2013-05-15.
  3. "Frequently asked questions about a problem that may cause Office 2000 prompts you to register after April 15, 2003". Support.microsoft.com. Retrieved 2013-05-15.
  4. Moses, Asher (30 September 2009). "Aussie inventor's $445m Microsoft windfall wiped out". The Age. Melbourne. Retrieved 2009-11-07.
  5. 1 2 3 "Viktor T. Toth - Just Say No... to Product Activation". Vttoth.com. Retrieved 2013-05-15.