Mac users upgrading to the long-awaited QuarkXPress 6.0 for OS X are facing unexpected problems activating their new products.

Quark introduced a new system of product activation when it released this version of XPress. Designed to prevent software piracy, the activation ensures that the industry-standard DTP software is not used on more than the authorized number of computers.

Customers upgrading from version 5 are told to visit a Web site in order to get the necessary validation code. Readers have contacted Macworld this morning to say that site does not yet exist.

One reader wrote: "I contacted Quark Europe, and was told that the site was not working and that to get the validation code I would have to fill in a form which they would send to me. They would not be able to send it for a day or two because they have so many to fill out. I then have to fill in the form, send it back to them, and then wait for them to send me a validation code."

Key holes On its Web site, Quark describes its adopted product activation system as completely anonymous: "Activation does not require that you submit your name, email address, or any other identifying information. During the activation process Quark only receives a unique, automatically generated identification number and will not learn anything about your hardware," the company's Web site says.

As company customers are now being forced to obtain activation keys directly in some cases, the promised anonymity of their purchase is compromised - Quark needs customer addresses to send the keys out.

A representative of one of Quark's UK distributors confirmed that "teething problems" exist in the company's authentication processes: "There are some difficulties relating to the authentication code," he told Macworld.

On installation, XPress 6 users can run the software for five days before activation is required, according to Quark's Web site. The software then reverts to demo mode.

"It was normal practice (with previous versions of XPress) to send the validation code within 4-5 days of the product being shipped to a customer," the distributor said. Quark's authentication problems may have an adverse affect, he warned: "Whether we can fit within the 4-5 day time-frame using Quark's new authentication system, we don't know," he said.

Mess Describing its product activation system, Quark says: "Activation is simple and quick. Activation through the Internet takes about a minute, and user participation is minimal."

At present, readers report a two-three day wait for the forms to reach them, followed by another wait in which the forms are posted or faxed back and processed, with an authorization key issued to them.

The news presents significant difficulties for users in Quark's core publishing markets, in which time is critical.

One reader remarked: "After making us wait for ages for the OS X version, when you finally get it, you can’t use it. What a mess!"

Quark no longer maintains a European PR contact. The company has been approached to comment on this story, but has not yet responded.