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BF2 doesn't associate to online accounts. It verifies that the CD-Key you have is valid and that no one is currently online with that CD-key. So, potentially, someone could sell you the game and keep playing it themselves. It's possible they aren't aware, and then they'd be fighting for the right to play online with you. First come first serve, I believe.
I thought BF2 started to allow the game without the disc after a patch like HL2. I must be confusing it with just using a hack/image so I could play it without inserting my disc every time. Such a pain in the butt!
I mean, a CD-Key prevents me from playing a hacked copy of this game online long before a crappy CD protection software could! Publishers can be so stupid - then again, we are speaking of EA :/ Kudos to Valve for realizing this and probably being the first major developer to allow play without the CD.