An online pass is a digital rights management system for restricting access to supplemental functionality in a product by using a single-use serial number. Online passes are primarily intended to hinder or discourage the second-hand sale of a product, and to allow the producer of a product to still return profits from second-hand copies of the product.
These passes were first primarily used by the video game industry, requiring use of a code found in a game’s manual or leaflets to access to certain online content, notably online multiplayer. Following criticism of the practice, several major video game publishers, including Electronic Arts and Ubisoft, began phasing out their use in 2013.
A similar tactic has surfaced in the academic textbook industry, regulating use of supplemental material and other online content, with intent to prevent students from obtaining a second-hand or borrowed copy of a needed textbook. This requires them to purchase a new copy in order to use its functionality.
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