What SecuROM does is phone home and activate, the same way MS malware in WGA and Vista does. If you install the game twice, it will keep you from installing a third time. As of this writing, some are calling it a bug, others are saying that the limit has been raised to 5 times, but there is no official word from 2K Games either on their web site or on their forums.
If the whole screwing of the consumer in this was wasn't evil enough, they managed to lower the standard yet again. SecuROM will hose you if you run AVG antivirus like I do, or you happen to have the audacity to run MS's own Process Explorer. If you read the links and the comments, you will see that both SecuROM and 2K have mastered the art of pass the buck, each blaming the other while not solving the problem. The 2K Games Bioshock forums are littered with complaints, far more than I have ever seen on a single game. It is a mess.
On the up side, the early calls of 'rootkit' are false, what you have instead is something that phones home to take away your rights, limits how you use your purchase, and in general, screws you. All this for only $49.99.
And here's a look at 2K Games' response:
We have been reading and listening to your frustrations over SecuROM, PC activation problems, and technical support issues since BioShock launched on Tuesday, and we've devised a plan to help.
Starting immediately, we will be upping the activation count to a 5 by 5 plan. We will be raising the maximum amount of computers a user can have BioShock installed on simultaneously from 2 to 5, and allowing a user to reinstall BioShock on each of those computers from 3 times to 5 times. Also, we have in the works a revoke tool which you will be able to run on your machine if you want to free up that key and move it to to another computer (this works very much like Steam or iTunes system). We are also working with SecuROM and 2K customer service, so that when you do need to call in support problems, you get answers to your questions faster, without much waiting or being bounced around. SecuROM has been given much more autonomy to help fix your problems quickly and effectively. I am personally sorry for anyone who got bounced around in the past couple days (I even think I contributed to this problem) and we're going to make sure that does not happen in the future.