Adobe Warns Users Someone Else Might Sue Them For Using Old Versions Of Photoshop

from the you-don't-own-what-you-buy dept

For years we’ve noted repeatedly how in the modern era you no longer truly own the things you buy. From game consoles that magically lose important functionality post purchase, to digital purchases that just up and disappear, we now live in an era where a quick firmware update can erode functionality and overlong EULAs can strip away all of your rights in an instant, leaving you with a hole in your pocket and a glorified paperweight.

The latest case in point: Adobe this week began warning users of its Creative Cloud software applications that they are no longer authorized to use older versions of the company’s software platforms (Lightroom Classic, Photoshop, Premiere, Animate, and Media Director). In the letter, Adobe rather cryptically implied that users could risk copyright infringement claims by mysterious third parties if they continued using older versions of these platforms and refused to update them. End users, not surprisingly, were equal parts confused and annoyed:

When I pressed Adobe for more detail on why users might risk being sued for using something they thought they owned, they weren’t willing to say much more than what was already in the letters:

“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. Unfortunately, customers who continue to use or deploy older, unauthorized versions of Creative Cloud may face potential claims of infringement by third parties.”

While Adobe couldn’t be bothered to clarify this fact, the company was apparently making a vague reference to its ongoing legal dispute with Dolby Labs. Dolby sued Adobe last year (pdf) for copyright violations after it wasn’t happy with the new revenue sharing arrangement crafted in the wake of Adobe’s 2013 shift toward its controversial cloud-based “software as a subscription” model. There’s really no indication that Dolby would actually sue Adobe customers, and it seems more than likely that Adobe was just interested in throwing some shade at Dolby — without making it entirely clear that’s what they were doing.

Regardless, copyright experts were quick to point out that given the overbroad nature of modern EULAs, users are completely out of luck when it comes to having any real legal recourse:

“Dylan Gilbert, a copyright expert with consumer group Public Knowledge, said in this instance users aren?t likely to have much in the way of legal recourse to the sudden shift. ?Unless Adobe has violated the terms of its licensing agreement by this sudden discontinuance of support for an earlier software version, which is unlikely, these impacted users have to just grin and bear it,? Gilbert said.

There’s plenty of legitimate reasons users may not want to update to the latest versions. Artists and creators often don’t like updating to new versions in the middle of a project lest some unexpected bugs cause problems. But again, in the modern era you not only don’t own what you buy, but any recourse to the ground shifting beneath your feet is stripped away by overlong EULAs that leave you powerless to actually do much of anything about it. Outside of refusing to buy products from companies that engage in unnecessary scare mongering and routinely undermine your rights, that is.

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Companies: adobe, dolby labs

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Comments on “Adobe Warns Users Someone Else Might Sue Them For Using Old Versions Of Photoshop”

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67 Comments
sumgai (profile) says:

I’m not sure how their EULA reads, I’ll leave it to someone to correct me if I’m wrong, but I’d bet that the language at the outset reads something along the lines of "Adobe grants you, the purchaser of this software product, a licence to use this software product insofar as you abide by the following terms and conditions…". And from there, I’d need to see all of the fine print to determine if there are any limitations on the longevity of this license. Terms such as "until the next upgrade", "until Year 20XX", or similar would be self-definitive limitations, without dispute. But lacking any such, I’d argue that without limitation means exactly that – no limitation on the time the product can be used. "Adobe granted me a license, and I haven’t run afoul of any of the terms and conditions, so I’m free and clear to use the software product, period."

Now, one tweeter said "… I’m paying for". That’s present tense, not past tense, so it implies a subscription model. Notwithstanding my personal feelings about this business model, the idea above still stands – I’ve paid for it, so I can use it, period. But by the same token, there’s nothing preventing Adobe from simply pulling that software product from the lineup of available products, and no longer accepting money for its use. I’d lay heavy money on the Terms of Usage having verbiage to that effect baked right in, even if presented in 2 point (lawyer) type size. At that point, fair warning was indeed issued, so there’s no room to complain.

I confess, I was not aware of Adobe and Dolby going at it with each other. But regardless of the outcome of that tet-a-tet, unless Adobe gives away/sells/loses in a court battle the actual rights to pursue violators of their copyrights, then what’s all this business about "third parties". Sounds to me like obfuscation of the CYA kind…. possibly Adobe fears just exactly that possible outcome, who knows.

sumgai

Vermont IP Lawyer (profile) says:

Re: Letter re Potential 3rd Party Claims

In a spirit of transparency, I admit that I almost always represent vendors rather than users. With that admission, let me offer another theory. I haven’t looked at Adobe’s actual fine print in a long time so this comment isn’t limited to Adobe. Odds are, the license grant is perpetual, i.e., it continues indefinitely unless terminated because of breach by the licensee. These days, software support almost always costs extra so perhaps there is language that says we’ll support the current version and one or two prior versions–seems to me fair enough for a vendor to say, if I fixed the problem you’re complaining about in a new version, you’ll have to update to that version to get the fix.

The issue of infringement is typically a separate matter. The vendor often (not sure exact statistics) says it will indemnify for infringement unless the infringement is cured by switching to a new version to which the user could have, but failed, to to update. As a vendor, if one comes across potential infringement, it is VERY awkward to have to say to users "Please update because your current version infringes [insert name of i.p. owner]’s rights"–it’s like wearing a "Kick Me" sign. Referring, as Adobe does, to unidentified third parties at the time an update becomes available is a not unreasonable approach.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

First of all if you can’t read a EULA on the outside of packaging, you shouldn’t purchase their crap. Secondly if those slimy dirtbags update your purchase making it useless, the government should make them reimburse consumer AND make the company pay to clean up the garbage and pay a resource tax.

K`Tetch (profile) says:

I used to use CC, mainly premier, as I did a sideline in video production.

2 years ago I did a concert, and I like to try and do a 12 hour turnaround, so finish at 8pm, and have the final thing uploading at 8am.

It was a simple 3 camera, 90 minute concert. BUT in the week or two since I’d last booted it up, they’d updated it, and changed ALL the titling sequences, to ‘dynamic titles’.instead of making an overlay image (for, say, new songs) I had to create an animated title sequence, and de-animate it, and slide it in.

After an hour of that, I gave up, and spent 2 more hours installing my old copy of CS6.

i’m still using CS6, although now I’m looking into Davinci Resolve.

K`Tetch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Also, I’m reminded of something else by my wife.

There was the ‘great outage’ of creative cloud in 2014. One of the conventions I work on uses InDesign for the signs. Since it’s an event, and fluid, they leave printing to the last minute. Which is great, unless InDesign won’t let you open it because of DRM. Much panicking ensued.

We had a similar issue the year before, when the hotel the signage department is based in (they print saturday signs on friday, sunday on sat, monday on sunday) had their entire internet go down on the thursday. The hotel was using its emergency dialup modem to update room bookings. Signage had to be put in a different hotel (that event spans 5 hotels) and instead of being in the central one, it was in an outlying room, in the outlying hotel (2 blocks from the 3 interconnected ones, and 2 blocks down a significant hill for the 5th. its main use is for registration and photoshoots) because that was the only spare space with net access, to keep adobe enabled.

As a popular costume at the event would say, "I hate them coconuts"

Professor Ronny says:

I have the last version of pay once PhotoShop and this is exactly why I did not upgrade. (Well, at least along with the cost of software rental.) When it’s installed on my machine, I mostly control it. If I rent it from the cloud, then I no longer control it.

The one thing that confuses me is why Adobe hasn’t simply turned off those older versions. That is what they would have done if the monthly rent had not been paid.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

IIRC that was never actually free, it was for the convenience of users who’d had trouble activating their legitimately purchased copies of PS CS2. They didn’t check that you’d already purchased it when you went to download the "free" version though, so even though it wasn’t actually free, it might as well have been.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

You own this as long as you don’t reverse engineer it, copy other than for spare media backup and don’t share it. That is reasonable, but anything beyond that, let them try to convince an intelligent jury. Meanwhile, they’ll smear themselves with public distrust and bad PR resulting in loss of millions of dollars of revenue.

Wendy Cockcroft (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Yet another reason...

Gary, what is the problem you’re experiencing with GIMP? What are you trying to do? The answer may well be on one of the many video tutorials I found online when trying to do things. It helps to get add-ons such as G’Mic. If it’s the fact that it does raster rather than vector images, I’d suggest using Inkscape for those. Otherwise, export the image you’re working on to a .png file as that will scale and won’t halo.

I’d also use Inkscape for circles as they don’t "step." You can then export the image as a .png or bitmap file and open it in GIMP to continue playing with it.

I’m not being paid to shill GIMP or anything, I just want to promote OS and get as many people as possible to use it — and love it.

Anonymous Coward says:

How the hell any court could actually crap on customers of anything, giving sellers all rights while removing them from consumers after theyve paid out hard earned cash, is beyond me! What a totally ridiculous situation!. Those judges eho brought this in must have been paid a fortune to shit on the people like this! Disgraceful!

Anonymous Coward says:

That is what firewalls are for. For applications that "call home", you just block access to those IP addresses at the firewall level.

Back in the 1990s, when I had to use CyberSitter, becuase my dad had housekeepers who brought children with them who could not be trusted. Credit card transactions were much less secure than they are now, but I was able to use CS illegally and not get caught, because I blocked the software from calling home, at the firewall level.

I used CyberSitter illegally, but I had my firewall block all access to oaktree.soliadoak.com, so that the software could not send anything back to them to rat me out, when I used a hacked unlock code I got from a "crack" site, so I would not have to risk my credit cards.

I never heard anything from Cybersitter, its attornies, or law enforcement, because my firewall blocked the "tattle tale" device from being able to phone home.

While Solid Oak would threaten to prosecute people under the anti circumvention provisions of the DMCA, that was just hot air. In order for it to be a felony, it has to be for financial gain, and using a software key from a "key generator" does not come under the definition of "commercial or private financial gain".

GHB (profile) says:

That's messed up

Enforcing mandatory updates like this is worse than what happened to sony in 2005-2007 (known as the “Sony Rootkit”). Looking at the consumer complaints on Amazon:

by Brendan Ribera:
“4. You must install any and all updates, or else lose the music on your computer. The EULA immediately terminates if you fail to install any update. No more holding out on those hobble-ware downgrades masquerading as updates.”

and the info about the EULA on the EFF: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2005/11/now-legalese-rootkit-sony-bmgs-eula

So you are flagged as a pirate for simply using outdated software.

Valkor says:

Re: Re: Enforcing mandatory updates

I keep telling myself this too. I really do want to, but I have to wrap my mind around a new way of looking at a file system and installing programs.

On the other hand, from an outside perspective, Linux doesn’t seem any better than cloud apps as far as being "done". One of the good things about boxed software was that there was an understanding that a shipped product was mostly done. Obviously, these were never perfect, but they were pretty good (YMMV). Now, my impression of Linux troubleshooting is a whole lot of "oh, try this patch" and "it’s fixed in the beta of the next version" and "that package doesn’t work anymore". It seems like software in flux, and I’m getting to the point where I just want to use it, not play with it. At least old versions won’t get shut down.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Enforcing mandatory updates

With Linux you can choose stability, or go for the bleeding edge. I have found PCLinuxOS to be rock solid rolling release, as is Debian Testing. I also run Manjaro, and have a had a couple of recoverable problems over the years I have been running it.

If stability is your prime requirement, the Ubuntu LTS, Mint, Debian stable, (install Buster as it will be the new stable shortly); or PCLinuxOS, which while a rolling release keeps it software very stable.

Most free software is useable, and unless you choose to run testing versions, relatively trouble free, so long as you stay with the Distros repos. Also, when the occasional bug slips through, an update is usually issued with hours, and not weeks.

Software management on Linux is very different from Windows, being based on repos, and a common, for the distro, package manager. That is where you find software, and where updates are managed from. Package management usually include the ability to lock a package to keep the current version, and (usually via the command line) install an older version of a package.Also, there is more choice in the desktop, so it is a case of finding one that suites you

Virtualbox is useful, as you can try out various distros, and desktops, and see which ones have the software that meets your needs. It is also useful as a copy of you installed system, so that you can check pout upgrades etc. before upgrading the installed system. It is also useful for a minimum system for higher security requirements, such as banking.

Anonymous Coward says:

The way I read this, Adobe is looking to sell off its old programs to third-parties. Then the buyer would be demanding payments from old users to continue using the software. No payment may lead to suing users of the old programs.
I doubt that would be legal (it’s certainly not ethical), but it’s how it reads to me.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Wrong.

This is allegedly about a licensee (Adobe) no longer upholding their end of the license with a licensor (Dolby?) for older versions of their (Adobe’s) products. (Allegedly, Dolby requires a payment from Adobe per install of Adobe’s products that Adobe is refusing to honor for older versions of it’s products. I assume Dolby must have licensed some code to Adobe for use in said products.)

As such users of said older versions would be effectively be using unlicensed, and therefore "pirated", software by continuing to use said older versions of the licensee’s (Adobe’s) product.

As use of unlicensed software is a crime, the licensor (Dolby?) is legally able to sue users of it’s licensee’s (Adobe’s) products for damages. (Check that EULA. Chances are there’s an indemnification clause in there.) As such, Adobe is warning it’s user’s of such liability.

Of course this reeks of corporate underhandedness and greed, but that’s what you get with SaaS*. You either keep up with the payments and updates or you loose the right to use the software. That’s why anyone worth their salt in IT has been advising their clients against SaaS. Because of exactly this kind of threat they can make against their users that is enabled by this model of software distribution and licensing. It’s anti-consumer and predatory at it’s core.

Worse, it’s not the only possibility. Given a closed walled garden system, this story would be reading more along the lines of: "Adobe forcibly upgrades old versions of Photoshop against user’s wishes." Because such a distribution system can be used to track individual installs and their version / patch status, a more locked down system can be ordered by them to issue upgrades. Something Microsoft already does with Windows, and others would be pointing to as justification for Adobe’s actions in the comment sections of such a story. Even though the underlying reasoning didn’t change with the story: "Adobe allegedly refuses to pay licensor; alters the deal with it’s own users to avoid legal liability."

*: Software as a Service

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 "Unconscienable for the law not to side with the consumer."

Maybe, but that won’t stop some biased or confused judge ruling against the consumer.

What was that bit in the Federalist papers? Oh yeah:

It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.

Anonymous Coward says:

I am still unclear about the wording here, but is Adobe only referring to prior CC versions of their software? And if so… i am not too sure they understand how cloud computing works. The version everyone uses should be the version they have running in their cloud…

Thank heavens i still have a copy of Aldus Photostyler and KPT.

Dave says:

I warned ye! Did nay I warn ye?

It’s only going to get worse as long as customers put up with the subscription model. Believe it or not you do not have to agree with companies that try to force subscriptions to turn you into a permanent money stream. It is a format meant only to allow you to own nothing and pay forever. Imagine if every software was subscription only? Imagine renting Windows 10 and paying just to turn on your computer, then renting adobe tools, then autodesk tools, then every other tool after that? Rent-to-own tools are the only acceptable rent options, where after so many months you at least get 1 perpetual license, and can opt to pay for future upgrades via subscription.
One bad week and your production would shut down because you could not turn on your work tools or access past project files. We already removed all adobe and autodesk products from our pipeline.
They are all easily replaceable by other paid tools that function equally or even better if you’re willing to do the searching and retraining just once.
To those of you who think “this is fine” enjoy the dumpster fire of a subscription only future. Either that or grow a spine and stop putting up with this bs. You’re the consumer, what you demand is what they have to sell. Period.

Gary (profile) says:

Re: I warned ye! Did nay I warn ye?

On the other hand software is constantly being updated and patched. My old copy of Adobe CS2 won’t run on my new machine. Should Adobe give me a free patch to get it going again?

I’m not a big fan of Software as a Service. But what’s worse is software I’ve actually purchased that just stops working for some reason and the vendor just smiles and shows me an invoice for the latest release. (Yeah, I’m looking at YOU PowerDVD.)

afn29129 David (profile) says:

Re: Re: I warned ye! Did nay I warn ye?

Oddly enough I just installed Photoshop CS2 (9.00) on my
Win 10 Pro x64 1803 system just to see if it could be done. It installed with not problems, works great. and afterwards applied the updates to 9.02.. no problems.

I had physical media from which to do the install, and also a local copy of the update in hand.

Don’t know what problems you experienced at your end but it can be done..

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I warned ye! Did nay I warn ye?

Subscription Only and indefinite revenue stream!! Nudge nudge squirt squirt FUCK THEM. Unconscienability still applies to these acts of coercion. That is where new companies should come in and fill the void where good faith, trust and partnering with the consumer base was once KING.

Wendy Cockcroft (profile) says:

This is why I use OS for graphic and web design

I’ve not done any creative work for hire since 2013 but I do like to play around and every time someone mentions the Adobe creative suites of programs as the be all and end all I flat out LOL. Why? Because I can recreate anything they come up with using my OS tools GIMP and Inkscape.

If I wanted to design a website from scratch without using a one-click WordPress upload I can use Kompozer and a div grid layout. What do we need proprietary software for again? OS can do the same damn thing. Okay, so you might need to flip between Inkscape (for logos, etc.) and GIMP (for everything else. I pull the bitmaps in from Inkscape to GIMP because they scale neatly, then export to .png), but it’s not hard and the results are every bit as good. Best of all, GIMP is intuitive and easy to use. When I took a Photoshop course a few years ago I found it hard to work pixel by pixel like you can in GIMP.

If Adobe doesn’t change its attitude it’ll soon find itself being eclipsed by OS and the OS programs will become the industry default.

Robert Rebecca says:

The Adobe CS6 is not effected by the Dolby infringement problem. Plus the Adobe Cloud Subscription service is very expensive when you lease all their software that you have to pay an expensive monthly subscription fee. Plus their tech support is horrible. I finally found a better way to go with Adobe CS6 Master Collection. I got it from the below for a one time low price and they give great 24 hour tech support in English. See below.

If you want to avoid paying a monthly Subscription fee for Lightroom; Photoshop and other Adobe software see below. You can get all the best Adobe software now at a much reduced cost in the Adobe CS6 Master Collection for just $151.00. It downloads directly from Adobe and there is not any Monthly Adobe Cloud subscription fee. It comes with all Popular Adobe software like Adobe Photoshop CS6 Extended; Lightroom; InDesign CS6; Illustrator CS6; After Effects CS6; Acrobat Pro; Dreamweaver CS6; Premier CS6; InCopy CS6 plus more, and as a Bonus lots of great Photoshop Plugins to make using Photoshop easier and much better. See it here.

http://www.directsoftwareconnection.com/adobecs6masterspecialoffer.htm

jess says:

Hate subscription programs with a passion

This is why I hate adobe and refuse to upgrade/use the newest products.When adobe design premium CS4 was a thing I got it because it was a one time physical copy buy. When the next one came out and they tried updating it/getting me to buy the new one I signed out of of adobe and never signed back in.Same with Microsoft yes I use win 10 because I kind of (very small kind of) like it but soon as the computer is set up I uninsall the latest Microsoft office and reinstall the 2013 Microsoft home office with the cd i bought when that was a thing. The monthly/yearly payments are just way to money hungry for me. I can understand netflix as a monthy bill but not a freaking computer program some/most need for work

And honestly I only use CS4 for its flash program because I hate photoshop tossed that years ago and replaced it with clip studio, great program with non of the monthly bs and all updates are free.

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