A Proactive Approach
Intellectual property drives the software industry, fueling technology and innovation investments.
Yet the same advances that drove the computing revolution of the past decade—the Internet, the Web, e-mail, faster processors, cheap memory—have made the protection of intellectual property more difficult than ever.
While technology companies tried many techniques to protect their products, virtually all these past techniques were rejected by consumers as unreliable and unfriendly.
Today, software companies are turning to 'product activation' as a workable extension of the end-user license agreement.
With growing consumer acceptance of activation, it's increasingly clear that activation strikes the elusive, yet necessary balance between user experience and software protection. But all activation approaches are not the same. Implementations can differ from one vendor to the next.
Here are answers to common questions about product activation; specifically, what activation means to users, why activation is controversial, and how high technology companies—and specifically Adobe Systems—are taking customer feedback to heart.
What is product activation?
Activation is an interactive representation of the licensing agreement that always existed between software vendors and their customers. The process authenticates licensed users, without hindering their ability to use the software. For example, just as photographers use watermarks to protect their intellectual property, Adobe is now using activation as a way to "watermark" Photoshop.
Why is activation controversial?
The controversy surrounding activation stems from customers experiencing or having knowledge of earlier buggy, inconvenient, or unfriendly activation implementations by other companies. Adobe spent a year developing our activation system, which takes customers less than 30 seconds to do. Adobe's activation approach is flexible, and includes a 30-day grace period. With business logic built into the system, Adobe's activation solution also considers customers' user habits, minimizing issues related to the reinstallation of software.
Doesn't activation present significant privacy issues?
A common misconception exists that activation is related to registration. With Adobe's solution, registration is optional for customers who want to receive information about product updates and special offers. Adobe's system does not collect, transmit, or use any personal information, including hardware configuration. In fact, the data for activation and registration resides on separate Adobe servers, and there is no connection between the two.
What Adobe products are affected?
Adobe's activation process is implemented in the Windows version of Photoshop CS, the latest upgrade of Photoshop. In time, Adobe's product activation solution will be rolled out to all applicable products and geographies to ensure a consistent, optimal user experience across Adobe products.
How is Adobe's implementation different from other software vendors?
Adobe's activation servers have been programmed with business logic that takes customers' typical usage patterns into account. Our activation process supports installation on two computers, provides for a 30-day grace period so customers can activate when it's most convenient, and offers a choice between Internet and telephone activation. If a customer replaces one of the computers, the server is smart enough to assume this is a replacement computer, and allows the activation.
Why did Adobe wait until now to add activation?
Adobe has long recognized the need to eliminate unauthorized use of its popular software products. But we were unable to accomplish this in a way that balanced intellectual property protection with customers' needs and habits. The introduction, refinement, and customer acceptance of activation technology over the past few years allowed us to introduce product activation in Adobe Photoshop CS for Windows.
How will activation affect volume licensing?
Adobe's product activation only applies to individual retail versions of Photoshop CS for Windows. It is not part of Adobe's volume licensing programs.
- Drew McManus
Drew McManus is Adobe's director of worldwide anti-piracy. He can be
reached at ABlatchf@Adobe.com.