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A license key is a data string that verifies authorized software product access. This type of software security helps prevent software piracy and gives organizations the ability to protect their software from unauthorized copying or sharing by unlicensed users.
A license key gives an authorized user/purchaser a data string that, upon installation, unlocks a software product and makes it available for use. Without the key, the software cannot be used. This prevents users from loading copies of the software to different devices. Even in this era, where digital rights management (DRM) tools limit piracy of audio and video files, protecting software from piracy is challenging.
The license key remains a popular security tool for on-the-shelf software. However, the emergence of cloud computing systems provides more options to software companies, in terms of how they sell products and effectively limit piracy.