Destructive DRM Strikes Again: Creative Professionals Blocked From Using Adobe Products For Days

from the defective-by-design dept

Last week, if you were a creative professional who relied on Adobe’s products, you may have discovered that you were totally screwed over by Adobe’s DRM, which made it impossible for lots of people to use the apps they were paying for. Considering how many designers rely on Adobe apps, this basically shut down an awful lot of creative work late last week. MacUser (the link above) has pretty comprehensive coverage of how far reaching the problems were. It initially appeared to be that Adobe’s Creative Cloud offering was down, but the impact went much further, blocking even people who had installed desktop apps. This was true even though Adobe insisted that the DRM in those apps only needed to check in with a server once a month.

The biggest problems, though, were faced by users who couldn’t launch apps. Along with many others, Stefan Goodchild wondered: “Can @Adobe explain why all my Creative Cloud apps are all disabled when their login system has an outage? What about when I’m on a deadline?”

Their confusion was understandable: Adobe had categorically assured users and journalists, when replacing Creative Suite with Creative Cloud in May 2013, that apps only needed to check in with the server every 30 days, telling MacUser in a written reply that products would continue to work for 99 days in the absence of a server connection.

The @AdobeCare account seemed to have been given the same information, telling user Robert Lewis at 18:13 on Thursday: “Your apps should launch without checking w/ server.” But Lewis was far from being alone in finding this simply wasn’t the case. “Since I can’t sign in, it won’t let me use my photoshop right now,” complained photographer Linda Watson Nkosi, among many similar tweets.

The MacUser article also noted that Adobe avoided providing workarounds (even as there were a few), insisting that there was nothing that could be done. This was either out of ignorance, or standard corporate fear of revealing basic workarounds to dodgy DRM. Adobe eventually (after more than 24 hours) got things working again and posted a rather weak apology.

Of course, this kind of mishap was exactly what many people feared would happen when Adobe ditched basic software licenses to go with a forced “cloud” setup, whose main benefit (to Adobe) was that it acted as DRM.

This all took place just a few weeks after the official day against DRM and Mozilla’s decision to accept DRM in Firefox. Many people still don’t seem to realize just how destructive and dangerous DRM can be, but perhaps last week’s events will get a few more folks in the design community to recognize the serious problem.

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Companies: adobe

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Comments on “Destructive DRM Strikes Again: Creative Professionals Blocked From Using Adobe Products For Days”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Well, not entirely – the “Cloud” is mostly just a buzzword used to describe online services.

DRM, on the other hand, is a power grab by control freaks who can’t stand the thought of a “lost sale” – and are willing to throw even more money and customers away to prevent it.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

There are lots of uses of “the cloud” that don’t have the effect of DRM, so that definition is way too narrow. You’re right, though, it is just a buzzword — it’s nothing more than a return to the old days of client-server computing, because everyone has apparently forgotten why we were so happy to be able to stop doing that the first time around.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Seems like that describes pretty much…well, everything.

Power company doesn’t want me to access power, they can shut me off. Water company doesn’t want me to access water, they can shut me off. ISP doesn’t want me to use their pipes for internet access, they can shut me off.

You know, it sure seems like using ANY service is a power grab by that definition.

FarSide (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Well, when you just lump everything together without making any distinctions, then sure.

But when you put stuff in the cloud that doesn’t NEED to be in the cloud, then.. I can see the power grab argument, pretty clear.

Water – has to come from somewhere else. Power – has to come from somewhere else. Internet – again, from outside.

A software program that I download and install on my local machine? How the hell is running that a “service”?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I agree. Although in the cases of things like water, power, and internet service, that level of control is intrinsic to the product or service they’re providing.

In the case of software, it doesn’t have to be. The underlying issue is this: do you really want to be at the mercy of a third party when it isn’t technically necessary? It amazes me that the default answer to this is “sure!” when it comes to the cloud.

Personally, I do not, and will never, use software that relies on the cloud or internet connectivity without a very good reason for that reliance to exist. In the case of these Adobe products, there is literally no need for that dependence. Adobe’s interest is purely for DRM. I think that is what people are complaining about here, even though they are articulating it in the guise of a mischaracterization of the cloud as a whole.

michael says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“It’s a power grab because, DRM or not, they can prevent you from accessing your programs and data.”

I don’t know who you think “they” are, but you surely don’t understand what “the cloud” is.

I have my data in “the cloud” — that is, it’s on my own server that I control and can access from anywhere.

Anonymous Coward says:

They also lied about it

The last paragraph in the referenced story at contains this quote from Adobe’s so-called “Customer Care”:

“We cannot offer compensation for the outage. I’m so sorry again for the frustration.”

That’s a lie. Of course they can offer compensation. They have a market capitalization of 30 BILLION dollars. It would be a trivial matter for them to provide every single one of their customers with a free additional month of service.

The truth is not that they can’t offer compensation; it’s that they won’t. Why? Because fuck you, that’s why.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: They also lied about it

More than likely, they don’t even know how many customers were truly affected, and are afraid to start handing out compensation because they know EVERY SINGLE customer is likely to request it.

Why? Because they rip off their customers, and the customers know it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: They also lied about it

Theoretically, every single user of these apps was ‘truly’ affected, even if they didn’t use it during that period. A product they paid for access to was unaccessible, whether or not an attempt was made to access it.

Given the length of the outage and the coverage it received, it’s possible that some users who did not attempt to access it only refrained from accessing because they had seen reports it was down. So even if Adobe somehow had a list of all the users who tried unsuccessfully to log in, that list would not accurately represent the people who would have used the service. Compensating only users who can demonstrate they tried to use the service would be unfair.

The only fair solution is to screw all the users, ideally by freezing their accounts and deleting all their cloud-hosted content, just to be sure they understand who has the power in this relationship. 🙂

Jamie says:

Re: Re: Re: Yes.

Most of the work I do these days is in free software. I still use Photoshop 6, which I purchased, and is perfectly functional. I’m not a full time designer, and the running-with-the-crowd thing is much more important.

I’m thinking Adobe might be finding the peak of piss your clients off. Other than entrenched behavior, they are way less important than they were when people actually cared about magazines.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: They also lied about it

More like, they can offer compensation but even they know that this kind of thing is inevitable and they don’t want to set precedents that harm them in the future. The next outage may well be much more disruptive, and thus more expensive.

Add to that, their defacto monopoly that means that most people will refuse even free competitors if they require retraining, and they have no reason to buckle this early. Until the market opens up in the minds of consumers, either people don’t know that you don’t have to use Photoshop to get certain results, or the end product “sucks” because it doesn’t do things the same way as Adobe’s product. Until that happens, Adobe can pretty much freely screw their own customers without consequence, as Microsoft used to.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: They also lied about it

OS versions of Adobe programs are available, PaulIT. It may mean using two or more programs to do what you used to do with one but I personally find it easier to work with lightweight programs that give me what I want than clunky ones that require special training in the first place or write bloated code for website design.

I’m self-taught on the ones I use, which have great peer-to-peer tutorials (as does Photoshop, to be fair).

The market does need to open up in the minds of consumers and the industry in general. Until they accept that alternatives are available, this will keep happening and Adobe will keep getting away with it. The customers are getting screwed because they’re willing to accept being screwed.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: They also lied about it

“I’m self-taught on the ones I use, which have great peer-to-peer tutorials (as does Photoshop, to be fair).”

Good for you. Then you’re not the sort of person I was referring to. You definitely seem to be the sort of person who understands that the best tool for the job isn’t the big brand name, and also that any new tool requires some learning curve, which in turn requires a little effort to get results.

If only everyone thought like that, we wouldn’t need this discussion.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: Re:2 They also lied about it

Necessity is the mother of “Oh, damn it, I might as well try the alternatives…”

I tried ’em, liked ’em, and haven’t looked back. I also haven’t been able to find work with bigger companies because I don’t use industry standard programs so it’s a double-edged sword. I think if we keep talking about them people might become more willing to try them out.

Andypandy says:

Re: They also lied about it

I would suggest a couple of court cases might encourage them to stop treating their customers like thieves.And yes they should be paying compensation to all those that lost business because of this.

When you make people totally reliant on your software at a cost that is amazingly high compared to better software you should be forced to accept the cost that comes with using dodgy drm that causes customers problems.

Pragmatic says:

Re: They also lied about it

I use Inkscape, GIMP, and Kompozer, having given up on Adobe’s clunky software years ago.

I recommend all artists, etc. download these programs and have them ready as backups in case something similar happens again. That way they can keep working till their programs are back online.

People have laughed at me for insisting on using OS programs because they’re not the industry standard, but who’s laughing now?

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Perhaps if the rules that let them avoid being sued for failure to deliver the product might put an end to this sort of crap.
If they had to make good for each customer they screwed over and were taken to task for lying about the system they might reconsider DRM. They understand only when it costs them money, it is time to inflict on them what their DRM inflicted on their customers.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Perhaps if the rules that let them avoid being sued for failure to deliver the product might put an end to this sort of crap.

This sentence doesn’t parse. What exactly did you mean?

I agree, though. It’s time for a class-action lawsuit against Adobe for pulling a stunt like that. They flat-out lied to their customers about their software and how it works, selling it based on a lie that, if the customers had known the truth, would have caused them to not buy it. Sounds like straight-up fraud to me…

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Depends on what you use it for and why you use InDesign in the first place.

That’s always the real question with these sort of things. Are you after specific features? Other products may have those. Do you require seamless interaction with other Adobe products or need the sheer look & feel of InDesign? You may be in trouble.

There’s nothing wrong with sticking to Adobe’s product, as long as you’re doing it because they have something unique rather than brand loyalty. Because once you accept always-on DRM, they probably don’t have loyalty to you so long as they can keep you locked in.

notgmo says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

A part of my job is to provide software for ‘creatives’.

We provide Adobe CC because as far as we in IT know, that is what you require.

I would much rather be installing the GIMP, Inkscape or Blender than some overpriced piece of shiny from Adobe.

So @jupiterkansas, if there is a cheaper or F/OSS option that’s suitable please speak up.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

If I go into a job interview and tell them I’ve mastered GIMP or Scribus, they’re not going to hire me. You pretty much have to know and use Adobe. That’s what makes them a monopoly.

If I were freelancing I might use GIMP, but it’s always been fairly easy to “find” a copy of Adobe somewhere (they offer a great discount for non-profits).

Lawrence D?Oliveiro says:

Re: I wonder if any of those affected will switch to free software products?

It?s worth comparing the Free Software offerings as a combination of team players: Gimp, Inkscape, Blender, Scribus, MyPaint etc. For example, people spend a lot of time in Photoshop trying to fake 3D effects (shadows, lighting etc); why bother, when Blender is capable of much more sophisticated 3D effects?

Then, when you add up the cost of all the proprietary products it would take to match the functionality of the above list, the Free Software offerings start to look even more attractive.

Jason says:

This is why I upgraded to CS6 the moment I knew the Creative Cloud deadline was upon me. I didn’t need CS6… I was still a perfectly happy CS2 user at the time. But I knew I would rather pay to upgrade that one last time then ever sign on to the Creative Cloud plan.

CS6 is a nice change, don’t get me wrong, so I’m not overly sorry about the “forced” upgrade. But it’ll be the last money I ever send to Adobe.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Alternatives

I suspect the differences are what prevents people from adopting it.

Having tried it out myself (and I was never an expert in photoshop), I was pretty irritated with how gimp worked.

Of course, that was probably nearly a decade ago now, and since I don’t use a lot of photo editing software, I haven’t really ever gotten back to trying it out.

Mostly these days, I just use Paint.NET on a windows box for simple photo manipulation.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Alternatives

That’s really the main problem, same with getting people to switch from Microsoft. When people first learn these programs (especially if taught in a class), they’re not trained in how to use “an photo editor” or “a spreadsheet” or even “an operating system”, they’re trained how to use Photoshop, Excel or Windows. Once trained, a person might find it uncomfortable or difficult to retrain on another program or format (or even another version – see reactions to the ribbon interface when MS came up with that, although sadly brand loyalty still won over for most).

That’s the real problem here. You can come up with a photo editor that’s far easier to use than Photoshop and completely open source, but if it differs too much from looking and feeling like Photoshop, people will find it annoying or hard to use just because it doesn’t feel the same. Plus, of course, Adobe will have patented & copyrighted the hell out of their program to stop anything similar from being released…

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

My dad E-mailed me this story when it first came out. He was glad that we hadn’t “upgraded” to Creative Cloud like we had discussed. He went on to wonder if GIMP would be a viable option for us.

I know GIMP can’t replace Photoshop in some situations (not without a lot of fiddling), but for the most part it works fine. Too bad I haven’t found good video editing software to replace Premier. Note that I didn’t quantify that with “Free”, I can’t find any good video editing software to replace Premier.

s7 says:

Re: Re:

For as much as everyone hates on Sony.

I’d replace Premiere with Sony Vegas. Depending on your needs, you can get a version of Vegas from $50, to $800. More money, More features. I’ve been using their Vegas Movie Studio Platinum 12 for about a year now and it does everything I need.

Here’s their stand on installing on more than 1 machine at a time.

What is the policy for installing and registering a Sony Creative Software program on multiple computers?

According the Sony Creative Software End User License Agreement, there is no restriction for installing or re-installing the software on multiple computers.

Many users need to have the software installed on more than one computer (i.e., a home PC, a work PC, and a portable laptop) for the convenience of being able to work on projects at different locations. Our EULA allows for this type of use and only the purchase of a single license is required to do so.

If multiple, simultaneous use is needed, then according to the EULA purchase of multiple licenses will be required (i.e., a classroom or a business with multiple people using the same program at one time).

Each time the software is installed, it may be installed using the installation disc or by downloading directly from our Updates page.
Reinstalling requires that you enter the serial number provided with your ordered materials.
There is no need to de-activate or de-authorize your software when you are installing on a new computer.
The software should be registered using the same contact and user information each time it is registered.
For information regarding purchasing an ACADEMIC multiple user site license, please contact one of our Academic Resellers.
For information regarding purchasing a COMMERCIAL multiple user site license, please contact our Customer Service team.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

This is true. No software is 100% secure. Even if you can audit the software, that doesn’t mean it is audited! No matter what you use, you should exercise some caution and take some precautions.

However, that’s usually still preferable to accepting a black box every so often from someone who just says “trust us it’s fine!”. If you can’t trust the code you can audit, you sure as hell can’t trust the stuff you can’t. Sure, OpenSSL had a major bug that went unnoticed – but Adobe have numerous serious bugs every year in their Flash and Reader plugin software, let alone their other products.

FOSS is no panacea, but neither is closed source software by a long shot.

Lawrence D?Oliveiro says:

No Need For Further Product Upgrades, Too

Adobe has also removed any incentive it ever had to bring out new versions of its software. Previously, that was the only way to persuade its customers to keep sending it money; now it can just sit back and keep collecting that money, without actually having to do any more software development work.

Anonymous Coward says:

Time to ban DRM...

..or at least legally reclassify it as malware.

Any form of DRM that prohibits the use of disk emulators or other software should be banned immediately.

Any “dial-home” DRM that requires any form of regular check-in with a server should only be allowed if compensation is made for each day the software cannot be used in the event of an outage. No less than 10% of the software’s retail value.

Ed Evans says:

Adobe and their 'cloud'

Funnily enough, I just recently participated in a survey about Adobe and its so-called cloud services. Since I have refused to participate in this scheme of theirs, I have locked myself out of any future Adobe software. One of the reasons (there were many) I gave is that if, for whatever reason, I didn’t have the internet connection with Adobe, I would not be able to use the software. This article perfectly illustrates the reason for this reluctance. I do not believe that this company has any interest in anything other than making as much money as they possibly can and the hell with the customer. I have voted with my feet. I suggest that this is the only language that Adobe and other companies using similar corporate principles (and there are many) can understand. Join me: they may get the message if enough of us do….

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