NeoGAF member posited that his new copy of EA's Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit contained an Online Pass that was expired, blocking him from accessing online content -- others on the forum came forward with similar stories, suggesting that EA's disclaimer covers this clause and he was out of luck. Since blocking new-game purchasers from using online content seems like an unproductive move (even) for EA, we asked an EA Advisor for clarification on its Online Pass expiration policy.
EA's Online Pass can indeed expire for some new games, blocking buyers out of online content until they download a new pass or attain one from EA directly, EA confirmed to Joystiq. As a rule, no Online Pass should expire, but a few titles will have a time limit on their use, even for new purchases, EA said. Dragon Age 2, for example, has an Online Pass that expires on March 31, 2012, according to EA's EULA description. Re-downloading or getting a new Pass is free, EA said.
This still seems like a strange extra step for EA to infuse in its new games, and we have contacted EA more directly for further clarification. Until then, maybe you shouldn't wait until the holiday tear the shrinkwrap off that copy of Dead Space 2.