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How Adobe Encourages Customers to Steal

Adobe’s products are incredibly useful to a digital team. But it is very tempting to pirate Adobe’s software – i.e., to steal it. Why is it such a temptation? Because Adobe encourages customers to steal their products.

Let me illustrate how this works, with a real life example…

We have a new web admin who has joined the team. It would be useful if he had an up-to-date copy of Photoshop to replace his ancient personal copy. So, as I have a Creative Cloud subscription, it would be logical for me to plug him into that – maybe upgrade to a Team subscription, and add him there. In fact, this could be the spur for me to get the core team members working more closely together – make sure they all have up to date versions of Photoshop (I’m getting very bored with one of our guys saying “oh, that PSD doesn’t open well in GIMP”), and maybe start using the Creative Cloud more broadly? That’s a sensible solution for me, and an opportunity for Adobe to make some money from me. So Adobe will have made that easy for me to buy the software that we need, yes?


First, the team subscription to CC doesn’t seem to allow me to add different software for different users, except at a relatively high price. If I want to buy buy After Effects and Premiere for one guy, Photoshop and Indesign for another, then each of those costs the same as the whole package. So I may as well add a user (add a “seat” to the subscription) for the whole package – which means paying for things that people clearly do not need. I need most of the software in CC, but most of the specialists in the team do not.

Second, nowhere on Adobe’s site does it say whether the team can be distributed across different countries. So, if I go to the expense of buying one or more seats, I have no way of knowing if we’re going to hit problems down the line due to people working in different countries. (I’ve already had problems upgrading CC when I’m not in the UK – I don’t need to pay money to find out that it’s even worse for a Team subscription.)

So, from the information on Adobe’s site, it looks like upgrading to Team is unnecessarily expensive, and might not even be practical.

OK, so lets keep it simple. Maybe I can just buy the guy a copy of Photoshop. As a standalone PS is very expensive, but Adobe has recently announced a Photography Plan for CC that gives Photoshop CC for $9.99 per month. Brilliant, lets buy that.


First, if I buy the package it isn’t $10 a month. It’s advertised that way, but actually it’s about $16 for me. To get the $9.99 price, it looks like you have to be in the US. OK, now I’m feeling cheated by Adobe. The firm has advertised a price, but now wants to screw a load more money out of me just because of the country I’m from?

Second, the plan isn’t available to everyone. Looking down the list of countries where CC isn’t available at all, we have a load of places where either a footloose creative may want to spend some time (most of the Caribbean, for example), or where an accomplished techie may already live (e.g. Croatia). And our admin lives in an unsupported country.

Now, we can probably work around that. I can buy the software for him from the UK, send him login details, and if we have to fake him being in Britain I can tell him to use Tunnel Bear… but why should I have to?

Look at what has happened here.

I have come at this from the perspective of someone who values and appreciates the Creative Suite, and who wants to spend money with Adobe.

I have then hit my head against a series of seemingly irrational restrictions, been slapped in the face by a crass attempt to charge me over the advertised price, and had to think up convoluted and unreliable plans to deal with the company’s policies.

My emotional state has now changed, as has my view of Adobe.

I no longer think of Adobe as a great company which provides software that I value.

I now think of it as an organization that creates problems that I have to get around.

And what is the easiest way to get around the problems that Adobe are putting in my way? Well, a quick Google search for Adobe CS6 torrents shows me several pages of ways to get the whole CS6 suite for free. And it is Adobe’s fault that I am starting to think this way.

Of course, pirating CS6 would be screwing Adobe. But remember, Adobe’s marketing geniuses have made it very difficult for me to deal with them fairly (which is what I intended to do at first), and they do not seem to have any intention of dealing with me fairly. CC is advertised at $50 per month, yet I am being charged around £50 per month – at time of writing that’s $35 more per month. So Adobe is already charging me $420 a year more than it would charge an American, and this episode has just reminded me that I’m already being treated shabbily.

Now, logically, what Adobe are doing is fine. A business is free to set its pricing any way it wants, and is not obliged to treat all customers equally, nor to sell in all markets. But this isn’t about logic or business law. This is about how people feel and are incentivized.

Emotionally, Adobe has frustrated me, and demonstrated that it does not wish to either help me deal with my business problems, nor deal with me in a way that seems just.

So, emotionally, there is a massive temptation to take the easy option and just say “OK, lets download a cracked version…” – they obviously don’t care about me, so why should I care about them?

And I am not the only person being confronted by these issues. Everyone in a country where Adobe charges above its US price is likely to feel aggrieved. And anyone working with an internationally distributed team is going to face these uncertainties and frustrations, thanks to Adobe.

In reality, I’m not about to steal from a software firm. We work hard creating digital content and would not want our work stolen – stealing another firm’s digital creations would stick in my throat. So I’ve just sent the email saying “try GIMP, maybe that will be better than your old copy of Photoshop”. But I know that isn’t the best solution, and I resent Adobe for that.

And across the world, Adobe are frustrating potential customers and setting up irritating and apparently unfair policies, which is just encouraging customers to steal their products. I do not indulge in nor condone pirating software – it is simply wrong. But when Adobe set up polices which mean that pirating appears to be not only the most practical and convenient option but potentially the only really workable option, then they are incentivizing people to do it, and they should accept that piracy is, in part, their own fault.