May 17, 2019

Adobe Tells Users They Can Get Sued for Using Old Versions of Photoshop

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In a move that shocked—or didn’t shock—Adobe users, the company announced that customers could face legal consequences for using old discontinued versions of Photoshop, warning them that they were “no longer licensed to use them.”

This week, Adobe began sending some users of its Lightroom Classic, Photoshop, Premiere, Animate, and Media Director programs letters warning that they weren’t legally allowed to use software they had previously purchased.

“We have recently discontinued certain older versions of Creative Cloud applications and and a result, under the terms of our agreement, you are no longer licensed to use them,” Adobe said in the email. “Please be aware that should you continue to use the discontinued version(s), you may be at risk of potential claims of infringement by third parties.”

How we got here

In 2013, Adobe moved away from its original business model, whereby users could purchase hard copies—and continue to use them regardless of later versions being released. The new subscription-based service Adobe Creative Cloud resulted in notably higher revenues due to the constant stream of monthly fees from users. Naturally, requiring users to regularly sign in online to confirm their paid subscription also curtailed the use of pirated or cracked versions of Adobe’s software that became widespread with the previous business model.

Everyone’s gone insane with subscriptions

Adobe’s transition to subscriptions isn’t necessarily new nor unusual. From video games and mobile apps to delivery-based health food plans and even clothing, business models based on subscriptions are extremely common now to ensure the companies providing them have regular cash flow. But the issue with software and other tech is that they are by their nature modifiable via wireless updates, meaning that features can be added, disabled or removed simply by going online. Worse, some companies can make these modifications mandatory and in Adobe’s case, make accepting the modifications mandatory to continue using the software or service.

And as you might have guessed, we’re also complicit in continuing this behavior because the stipulation that the company is free to do so is buried but clearly written in those End User License Agreements we unashamedly skip through and agree to. This gives companies—pardon the pun—free license to modify products that we don’t own in any concrete way and this most recent move extends to products people thought they owned in perpetuity.

What’s to be done?

Seeing as Adobe’s software serves as the industry standards for many creative fields (Premiere for video, Photoshop and Illustrator for graphic design and InDesign for publishing among others), it’s hard to peel away from that software we might have trained on, are used to or the rest of our collaborators are using. For established creatives, that’s a business expense that can certainly pay for itself (assuming you earn over $60 USD a month on projects), but it’s a big upfront cost for artists that are starting out or looking to go digital.

The solution for them? Draw a line in the sand and stick to open source or free programs that are actively maintained and have a community. There’s no Photoshop equivalent industry standard for creative writing work (as much as Microsoft Office wishes) because people care more about the end result more than the software it was produced on. If you have talent or willingness to create good work, even if it means a few more steps to do with free software what some of Adobe CC’s cutting edge technologies could do better and quicker, the portfolio will speak for itself.

For those tired of getting nickel-and-dimed? You might need to take stock of and start Marie Kondo-ing your monthly and yearly subscriptions and decide whether you could put those savings towards more permanent solutions you own (such as making your own NAS in place of regularly paying for cloud storage).

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