I'm no lawyer, but I understood that when you buy software, you can actually own it, just like you own a book that you might buy. What you don't own is the copyright.
It's the right to copy the software that the licence grants you. As I understand it, especially in the UK, whether such a licence is needed to "copy" the software into memory in order to use it is unclear.
As I say, I'm not a lawyer, so I don't really know, but it strikes me as very odd. You shouldn't need a licence to use the software that you've paid for. The copyright protection that the law already affords should be sufficient to protect the copyright owner. Anything else is a restriction for the consumer (just my opinion).
It's a shame that VA need to use activation keys, whether this is through their own choice or forced on them by their own licensors. I've not used it myself, but it does sound as if it's been badly executed and will end up losing them customers in the long run.