In 2003, I purchased a multitrack recording program online called Quartz Audio Pro. I bought it directly from the company that created the software, Digital Sound Planet (DSP). The software had previously been available from a company called Canam Computers, which I assume went out of business.
After purchasing it, I discovered to my dismay that after installation, the program had to be activated by entering an “unlocking key” generated on DSP’s website that could only be used once, something which DSP hadn’t informed me of beforehand. I was unhappy about this because it would mean that if DSP were ever to go out of business and I had to reinstall the software (as would be the case when migrating to a new computer, upgrading the operating system, or recovering from a hard drive failure), I would lose the ability to access my Quartz Audio sessions.
I emailed DSP and demanded a refund. After hearing my concerns, they talked me out of the refund by promising me that if they went out of business, they would make sure their customers would be able to permanently unlock their software. To quote their email:
> Finally, to answer your last question (which is
> legitimate) about possible
> company-breakdown :
> We are musicians above all, and want our
> software to be used by musicians. If we
> ever ran out of business, we would make the
> programs fully unlocked for all our
> The DSP Team.
Not long after this exchange, however, I started seeing signs of trouble.
Emails to the company would go unanswered, as did queries in its support forums.
A search of Google’s usenet archives shows that at least one person was experiencing problems with this company as early as 2002, and in another usenet message it was reported that the DSP website was down for over a week in January 2004.
By 2006, the DSP support forums were full of messages from users who were wondering if the company was still in business. The company hadn’t posted a single message in its forums since 2003.
One user who needed a new unlocking key but wasn’t getting responses to his emails decided to make some phone calls and found out that DSP had cleared out its office in Les Mureaux, France, in September of 2005.
The situation was looking grim, but then in January 2007, the site was updated. It looked like DSP was alive after all and was finally getting its act together.
This sudden burst of activity wasn’t to last, though; in September 2008, I went on the site only to find that it hadn’t been updated since September 2007, that the support forums were disabled, and that I couldn’t log in to my account. I tried to email DSP using the contact addresses provided on the site, but those didn’t work as usual. I then tried contacting DSP through the email addresses provided by its domain registrar, and surprisingly, got a response a week later. The response, however, wasn’t helpful, and my second email was ignored.
Earlier this year, I noticed DSP’s website had disappeared, and it is still missing as of the time of writing. On February 19, I sent emails to the contact addresses provided by the domain registrar and they were returned as undeliverable. There can no longer be any doubt: DSP is out of business.
I’ve written this article in the hope that it will encourage the owners of DSP to do the right thing and provide a patch or key generator to enable their customers to permanently unlock their software, as they promised me they would back in 2003; or, failing that, to warn people about doing business with these individuals, one of whose names is Tranquille Tabard (his middle name is probably Thierry).
I’m also posting this to serve as a cautionary tale about software which uses these sorts of activation schemes. If you want to be able to access your data into the foreseeable future, don’t use a program with a proprietary file format that employs this type of activation scheme. If a program won’t allow you to install it where you want, when you want, and as many times as you want, don’t buy it; it’ll be more trouble than it’s worth in the long run.