Adobe and Infringement

Adobe programs are to creatives what a tennis racquet is for Roger Federer, if there was only one brand of racquet available to all tennis players and the brand could make everyone pay every year to use the racquet, and raise their prices whenever they liked. If the racquet became more and more bloated and heavy over the years but everyone still had to use it because it was the industry standard. This has been a known and ongoing problem with Adobe software in the industry — since they have a monopoly and know it, they’ve been steadily just bloating their software, tacking on the less-popular software into the suite that most of us don’t need. Adobe now allows you to buy per app, with an individual price, student, business, or university, but compared to similar professional programs like Microsoft, the subscription remains an eye-watering price for freelancers:

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Adobe knows that most freelancers really only need the Creative Suite — Illustrator, Photoshop, and inDesign. Yet for the price of those 3 programs, you pretty much might as well get the whole swollen raft of stuff you’d hardly ever use. Many people are lucky enough only to need Photoshop for their work (photographers, digital artists etc). Yet recently Adobe also doubled the price of its Photoshop package, sending people into panic:

The $US9.99/month option still appears for many users visiting the site, and if it doesn’t, PetaPixel has confirmed that it can still be purchased by contacting Adobe’s sales team by phone, using the website’s online chat to talk to a salesperson, or by contacting an official Adobe reseller. The $US9.99/month option can also be purchased as a 12-month plan for $US119.88, which can be further locked down for an additional three years.

But by hiding that option on the website, it means that new Creative Cloud subscribers who aren’t familiar with the current pricing structure will simply assume the $US20.99/month option is the cheapest way to get Photoshop, and that’s a scummy way to take advantage of them.

It turns out that Adobe was just “testing the waters”. Yay?

Adobe Piracy on the High Seas

I remember the first time I saw an Adobe product. I was in school in Asia in the 90s, and I’d walked into a computer store with my parents. There was a display rack with beautiful artwork, including “Adobe Illustrator”, which at the time I’d erroneously thought was an art program like Corel Draw. I was about to ask my mum for it when I saw the price tag. At first, I’d thought it had a few zeroes out of place. Perhaps unsurprisingly, when I finally taught myself how to use Photoshop for digital painting as a kid, I pirated the copy. It’s easy to pirate things in Asia. The internet’s extremely quick, and even if it isn’t, you can easily acquire dodgy copies of anything you want from shops.

Piracy is why Adobe embarked on creative cloud. Adobe products have been pirated for decades. Accessibility is certainly one way to address piracy: Steam/Valve, for example, famously remarked that piracy is simply a failure of marketing. However, Adobe’s eye-watering subscription price continues to make its software a draw for people who can’t afford the programs:

It’s often said that price and accessibility aside, one of the best ways to cope with piracy is to offer a superior service. Narayen says Adobe is doing just that with Cloud by offering unique features unavailable in ‘cracked’ software.

“As we’re delivering more Cloud-based services, as you know the only way to use the mobile apps and share content between the mobile apps as well as our Creative Cloud, is by having a subscription. So I think that’s also why we see more creative sync and creative profile being used, that’s certainly driving that,” Narayen added.

While it is indeed quite difficult to measure the scale of piracy of Adobe products post retail, the company’s popularity with pirates is still very visible.

Is this even still a viable strategy? Probably, yes. With the monopoly that they have on creative industries, it’s possible that Adobe might be able to trundle on, ever-increasing their prices on an industry that’s already in a state of reinvention or slow collapse. Traditional agencies are facing competition from consultancies. Adobe might not care about all the negative attention and bad press. It knows that the people who can afford to turn to cheaper alternatives are not its core audience: everyone who works professionally in the creative industry uses Adobe programs. It has an eye on its own stock price, which was recently upgraded to a Zacks Rank 2, reflecting an upward trend in earning estimates.

And Now This

Like many people stuck with Adobe programs, I use the old versions where possible. The newer versions tend to require faster and faster computers, tend to be more unstable, and have strange functionality changes that cost me readjustment time. Save for inDesign, of which I use the newest version because insisting that everyone else save idml files got annoying after a while, I use the older, stable versions of CC apps. They work with my MacBook, which I’ve been refusing to upgrade because the latest MacBooks have a terrible, easily-breakable keyboard.

Recently, reporting has indicated that people like me could be in danger of infringement. Can you really get sued for using old versions of Photoshop and Lightroom? Via Endgaget:

A spokesperson said in a statement sent to AppleInsider: “Adobe recently discontinued certain older versions of Creative Cloud applications. Customers using those versions have been notified that they are no longer licensed to use them and were provided guidance on how to upgrade to the latest authorized versions.” However, the spokesperson said Adobe can’t comment on claims of third-party infringement, as it concerns ongoing litigation.”

The company didn’t elaborate on what lawsuit compelled it to send out warning emails, but as AppleInsider mentioned, Dolby sued Adobe in March 2018 for allegedly not complying with their licensing deal. Adobe is contractually obligated to report sales of products that use Dolby technologies to the company and to pay the agreed-upon royalty fees.

According to court documents, Dolby is accusing Adobe of selling products that use its technology without paying at all and of refusing to provide the information it needed to conduct a meaningful audit of its books. At the time, Adobe told The Register that “Adobe does not agree with Dolby’s characterization of the issues concerning its audit of Adobe’s past use of its software.”

It’s not a great look for a company that’s already suffering from panicked exodus after the Photoshop stoush. It’s also unclear whether Adobe or Dolby can actually pin any legal responsibility on consumers: it’s not our fault that we were sold licenses for programs that Adobe didn’t have the rights to. Still, if you want to be safe, you probably should update. Bloatware and all. In the meantime, we still have memes:

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