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Firms step-up software protection

By Jonny Evans

Major software vendors are introducing product activation in a bid to combat software piracy.

Although Quark's inelegant attempt to enforce product activation has hit trouble, other manufacturers are promising "innocent until proven guilty" solutions.

Quark continues to experience problems with product-activation codes, but cannot say when it will release codes to XPress 6 customers. The company has declined to comment.

Adobe, meanwhile, is engaged in a six-month experiment with product activation with Photoshop 7.0 for Windows, but only in Australia. The security system leaves customers with fair-use rights, and Adobe claims it is "fast and reliable in implementation, so as not to waste its customers' time". Under the current system, customers have 30-days in which to activate the product.

An Adobe spokesman said: "Adobe's approach to product activation is one in which the customer is innocent until proven guilty." He said Adobe expects to roll-out the system "within other products over time", but added that "no date has been set".

He claimed that Australian customers had been "generally happy with the experience". The security system separates a given product's serial number from the activation code in order to protect customer privacy.

Globally, software piracy cost an estimated $13.08 billion in 2002, claimed the Business Software Alliance (BSA), which is a pan-industry anti-piracy group.

The UK office of the BSA and analyst firm IDC recently declared that reducing the UK's software piracy rate from 25 to 15 per cent would increase the value of the UK IT sector from £37.5 billion to £54.4 billion, and create 40,000 jobs over four years.

The Adobe spokesman said: "Any software manufacturer who says they are not looking at protecting their intellectual assets are not telling the truth."

Macromedia is also experimenting with product-activation technologies, introducing those in its recently-announced Contribute 2 application.

Macromedia is allowing Contribute 2 customers to install the software on two machines. This company's system also aims to be hassle-free and customer-friendly.

First published August 15, 2003

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