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Piracy – Adobe’s Best Friend?

Disclaimer: This article in no way endorses piracy of any kind.

A lot of big companies, like Adobe, complain a fair bit about piracy of their software, and who can blame them? It’s a huge loss of profit for them. At least, that is what they would have us believe, and that may be what they believe as well, but is that really the case?

While I have no hard statistics to back this up, I believe that most people would agree with me when I say that the majority of Adobe programs that are pirated are done so by teenagers. A group of people who don’t typically have the funds to buy something like the Adobe Creative Suite.

Now, looking at this from one side, it looks pretty bad. Millions of dollars lost each year since none of these people are paying for Adobe’s product. I, however, would say the exact opposite. The piracy actually helps Adobe grow and sell more licenses for their products.

If I was a kid in high school, and I got my hands on a pirated copy of Photoshop or Flash, I would probably give it a try for a couple days. After this point, my attention span would be spent and I would move on to something else. But if I enjoyed the program, and kept tinkering with it and learning about it, I might be inclined to take a course at my high school for Photoshop. There’s one license bought as a result of my piracy.

Now, in this class, I learn more about Photoshop and some of the more powerful things it can do, which interests me more in the program. I decide that this is something I would like to pursue as a career, so I go build a portfolio and submit it to a few colleges that offer programs related to graphic design. I get accepted to a program; another license bought that I am using. This single license turns to two as Adobe releases a new version of Photoshop while I’m still taking my 4 year course. I’m up to 3 paid licenses for my use.

Now after school I get a job, and the company I work for buys me two licenses, one for work and one for my home computer. Now I’m hitting FIVE licenses because of that one pirated copy that got me interested in Photoshop and graphic design back in high school.

While all this might be hypothetical, it’s not too far fetched. I took the number of purchased licenses based off of my own experience through high school, college and work. The other thing to consider is the spin-off licenses that are purchased. I’m a Flash developer, but I also have Photoshop and Illustrator on my computer. Sure this is all in the same license now, but before there was a Creative Suite license and a Flash one.

So, a message for Adobe: rather than try and fight piracy, maybe you should look into ways of getting your software to high school students so they can get into your product legally. Then make a fortune off of the educational and business licenses that will sell as a result.


  1. By Noah Everett posted on August 7, 2007 at 11:33 am
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    I agree…$690 for Flash CS3 Pro? Yikes.

  2. By Adam posted on August 7, 2007 at 11:35 am
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    Great article Alex, I totally agree with you. People should be careful when pirating software because it is illegal but my thoughts on the matter are if you’re seriously contemplating buying the software its best to try it out first (you do it with cars!). Almost all of the software I’ve pirated I have bought. I like using it before I buy just so I can find its flaws.

    Most companies put out trial versions of their products but its normally 30 days and limited usability. I find this annoying because to fully test drive a piece of software you need more than a month.

    Keep up the great articles.

  3. By Vasco posted on August 7, 2007 at 11:58 am
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    You know, its funny how today at lunch i was thinking the exact same thing. And when i read your article i just had to comment, if i may.

    The thing is, after you’ve used all of these products and realized people actually consider you for what you’ve done with the mentioned products, you feel in gratitude (and in love in my case) with these products and by addition with its manufacturer therefor with the brand. So piracy takes on the roll of viral marketing which as we all know is the brand’s latest best friend. And the best thing is that its free, no wait, you (brand) even get to collect a substantial sum should there be a lawsuit…
    Interesting thing this global economic thing. Kinda makes us wonder who pirates what.
    I’m a graphic artist from Portugal and i just don’t wear a t-shirt from Adobe because i couldn’t get my hands on one yet, but if i could I’d wear the whole outfit, kinda like skaters like to wear and endorse brands that are some how related to the things they like to do and are considered for. My point is I love Adobe so much I wanna be part of the process, get involved with the brand thus getting a license is just the first step, the hardest though, still what i really want is to endorse, contribute, try, breath Adobe, but if i can’t get my hands on one of their products then I’m off.

    I’m 100% with this article and feel this issue should be more talked about perhaps even get some numbers on it.
    This attitude from the big companies is really starting to bug me don’t you think?

  4. By John Dowdell posted on August 7, 2007 at 12:03 pm
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    There’s a danger with running suspect code on your computer… if it says “Adobe” on the label, but doesn’t come from Adobe, then you can never be quite sure of whose instructions are actually running your computer.

    There’s a variety of ways to get into the field with low cash investment while maintaining system safety:
    http://weblogs.macromedia.com/jd/archives/2007/07/lower-priced_im.cfm
    http://weblogs.macromedia.com/jd/archives/2007/04/low-cost_media.cfm
    http://weblogs.macromedia.com/jd/archives/2007/04/foss_cs3.cfm

    (There are also academic subsidies, for those enrolled in accredited educational institutions.)

    jd/adobe

  5. By Florian posted on August 7, 2007 at 1:05 pm
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    great article. i’m a student and get about 250 euros from my parents. how the hell should i pay about €1000 for photoshpo cs3? and nearly €600 for dreamweaver? and over €800 for flash. if there would be no illegal copies i simply couldn’t use this software. when i don’t use adobe’s software i would probably use open source software, and not only me. also thousands and thousands of other students who can’t afford adobes software. and when we start working, we have no expirience with adobes software. and we would use the software we used in the past years. because why should we learn a new software when we can already work with a free one?

    i asked myself often why adobe give away their software for students for €100 or so. i think no student (except those with extra ordinary rich parents) have ever buyed adobe’s software, and with student versions everybody would be happy. students can use a legal copy and adobe gets some money.

  6. By Alex posted on August 7, 2007 at 1:13 pm
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    Before writing the article I did some research. I read some information from Adobe regarding piracy. It’s true – any time you install and run software that is not the “original” software, you run the risk of malicious code being there.

    On the flip side, most teenagers would rather take that risk then shell out multiple hundreds of dollars, even on an educational license.

    The free/cheap programs out there just can’t do what Photoshop does. Photoshop is the top program in it’s field because it’s the best over all. And for Flash, well, it’s more difficult to use some of the cheaper things out there, or you need to be a skilled developer to write code that does not rely on the IDE at all, but can be compiled with an external compiler. To get to that point, you usually need to start off with the basics using the Flash IDE.

  7. By Benji posted on August 7, 2007 at 2:59 pm
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    Could be true, but have you been in latin america or asia? its not the way things work.

  8. By Aaron :: miLienzo.com posted on August 7, 2007 at 7:06 pm
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    I finished college last year and its an unspoken truth that all students use software they have, erm, ‘acquired’ from sources of dubious repute. And it’s true that these students will go on to become professionals and they will feed the industry that Adobe makes all its money from. So Adobe benefits from piracy, right?

    Not sure you’re gonna get anyone from Adobe HQ agreeing to that one I’m afraid.

  9. By aj posted on August 7, 2007 at 7:25 pm
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    No one from Adobe will agree, but I think underneath it all, they know how many people pirate their software, and they really don’t care. Of course, a hacker is always going to find some workaround to whatever restrictions they put on the program before unlocking it, but I think the activation procedure is easy to hack somewhat purposely, because they want kids to be able to experience their products longer than 30 days if it will help inspire a future career where real legit licenses will be used.

  10. By Ronald Huereca posted on August 7, 2007 at 10:55 pm
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    I’m not a fan of pirating software and I don’t like people who do it, but I agree that it’s a good way to learn software. I used a friends *cough* version of Photoshop in high school and college, and just last year talked my company into buying eight licenses of CS2. I’m pushing for CS3 now, but you know how that goes. As far as the free or lower-priced alternatives… there just simply is no comparison.

    And if anybody is serious about graphic design and/or website development, that person should suck it up and make the investment.

  11. By Alex posted on August 8, 2007 at 12:16 am
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    In my opinion, if you are using the software to make money than you should be paying for it.

    Ronald – I feel your pain trying to push CS3. I’ve been doing that for a long while (before it was even released), but I think they are finally starting to budge on it.

  12. By Darren posted on August 8, 2007 at 3:33 am
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    This reminds me of a quote from Microsoft. I can’t remember it exactly but it goes something like this:
    A pirated copy of Windows is just another person who will prefer to continue using Microsoft machines instead of change so they don’t have to change any habits. This means that even people who use pirated copies of Windows help Microsoft lead the market.

    Brilliant strategy although slightly back-handed lol.

  13. By Gigi posted on August 8, 2007 at 7:25 am
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    There is a story in the No Logo book by Naomi Klein about USA cloth stores which will “let” teenagers steal their merchandise (a tshirt or two) because the kind of people which steal these are usually the highly regarded ones in a group of teenagers, so they want them to steal their stuff and not somebody elses.

  14. By Bliss posted on August 8, 2007 at 8:20 am
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    Completely agree. Moreover, i believe.. if there hadn’t been piracy thing, microsoft, and adobe wouldn’t have ruled. Not that piracy is good. But the IT industry wouldn’t have been this successful otherwise.

  15. By Q posted on August 8, 2007 at 8:51 am
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    While this logic may seem sound, it is flawed. Most software vendors already offer heavily discounted educational pricing for the purposes of allowing students and educators access to their professionally priced products at more accessible prices. As for the evaluation rationale, many vendors also make their products available for use on a trial basis without needing to pirate them. In fact many vendors, most notably Adobe and Microsoft are now moving to have their retail installations run in trial mode by default until you install a valid license.

    It is my experience that those people who routinely pirated software in the past will usually continue to do so in the future as they have a tendency to under value the cost of software and have difficulty justifying the purchase price of a legitimately licensed version.

  16. By heirenton posted on August 8, 2007 at 9:36 am
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    Is it not the case that they use privacy policy as an advertisement. More people use illegal copies of product more we see end user product which is made with this product. After some point this become a perfect advertisement for them. Because without a chance to use them illegally people will start to use similar open source software and this would result with million dolars of lost in license not illagel copies.

  17. By Vasco posted on August 8, 2007 at 1:43 pm
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    To Q…

    That is typical BS for someone who sits behind a corporate desk all day and you know it.
    I don’t know in what world you live in man, but Adobe and the usual suspects sell out to the entire world. Now what this means is that whilst an average American can easily prove and support a “heavily discounted educational software” the rest of us can’t. For several reasons. First you have to prove your a student and this may sound crazy but in my world this is actually quite hard since America tends to ignore that other countries have other policies. Second what may seem cheep or…(heavily discounted) for an American it is still pretty expensive for a Portuguese (PLS NOTE that Portugal is NOT a 3rd world country). Third. If you’re self taught than forget it…
    Now it is MY experience that given the opportunity people move away from crime. I guess what I’m saying is 90% of all home users all over the world use or have used pirated software, they can’t all be criminals and you can’t assume they’ll all have criminal behavior for the rest of their lives. What you can assume however is that they think that there is something wrong with the market. Here’s a thought, my machine has a life span of 4 to 6 years give or take a few upgrades, my software which can go from a few euros to the double price of my machine has no more than 1 to 3 years give or take a few upgrades. Now if you want to move up to a new version of the given software then its back to the costly licenses.
    And people say that computing is the future and it’s suppose to be for every one and bla bla. What’s wrong with the market is that big corp.s wanna milk this cow as much as possible and their ready to pay the price(piracy)and I don’t think it is such a high price or they wouldn’t be the biggest players in their fields.

    V

  18. By Diogo posted on August 8, 2007 at 7:35 pm
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    I love Adobe’s softwares. They are not the golden marble, holy graal of all things, but there just isn’t anything better. I’m a huge Free Software fan, and I believe technical knowledge and it’s by-products should not be comercialized as some kind of overpriced extravaganza.

    However, even tho’ I do buy pirated copies of Adobe’s products, I recognize (as a developer) the amount of work into it, and had I the means to it, I’d buy them. $500 plus dollars for a piece of software (whatever it is, and I do mean WHATEVER) is overpricing. But industry is made out of overpricing. But, one must recognize good software when slapped in the face with one.

    I always warmed the idea that piracy contributed to product sell, and I even challenge one to prove me (with hard data) when did it ever substancially (e.g.: to bancrupcy) harm a company.

    I think software patents and overpriced softwares have set us back many years. I can not imagine where would we be, science-wise, had important discoveries and acompishments made public to everyone. All the best ideas come from small groups.

  19. By Ronald Huereca posted on August 8, 2007 at 11:24 pm
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    Diogo,

    It’s not that all the best ideas come from small groups. It’s that the small groups don’t have all the red tape and politics with some leper higher up telling them, “Oh, that idea is rubbish.”

  20. By Nicolas Sanguinetti posted on August 9, 2007 at 2:16 am
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    @heirenton: I live in Uruguay, South America. My paycheck is around U$S700, which yields some 50 spare bucks per month after paying the bills and the food. Even if I use Illustrator for work, I can’t pay a year worth of savings for that, it’s just too much for me.

    I do believe in paying for what you use. I did save a lot of money to buy a Mac, and I did pay for TextMate, as it is something I use and deserves getting paid.

    Doesn’t Adobe’s software deserve getting paid for? It sure does. Can I? Well, I *could* but it’d be too much, I only got my mac ’cause I got a lot of money when I quit my old job, raising that kind of money again won’t be easy.

    So, if I had the possibility, I’d pay for it. They deserve it. They provide me with great tools, so I feel obliged to provide them with my thanks.

    After all, I’m a software developer, and it’s good to bring food to the table :)

    Piracy means that you can get to work now, get paid, and then when you collect enough money you can pay for what you use. But from this little corner of the world, it’s difficult to adjust to US/Europe’s prices.

  21. By Çağlar Gülçehre posted on August 9, 2007 at 5:02 am
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    I totally agree with you and i have been advocating the same idea since I have started the College.

  22. By Robert posted on August 9, 2007 at 8:33 am
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    I would appreciate another strategy from Adobe: get a full license for free for 1 year. After that it expires but if you could use it in earning money for a whole year, it could be easier to purchase the product (or something like that).

  23. By adam j. sontag posted on August 10, 2007 at 10:07 am
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    i kept a post-it above my desk for a year+ that said, “i’ve developed most of my marketable skills on illegally pirated software.” it’s definitely a fact of life – i’m downright evangelical about their products but when you’re in college it’s hard to get your hands on software (which you’re dependent on) that costs 3 times your monthly rent.

  24. By Lew posted on August 26, 2007 at 12:54 pm
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    Completely agree. A lot of creative people only pirate software they can’t afford to buy. So who is losing out? Even without piracy these people wouldn’t be buying licenses.

  25. By Jordan posted on August 27, 2007 at 10:54 am
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    I actually wrote a paper on this exact topic… in high school. There have been 3 or 4 licenses bought for me by school and my employer since then.

  26. By Cayson posted on September 2, 2007 at 12:34 am
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    (My website is not up yet)

    I agree with you just like everyone else. Mostly at that first scentence in the last paragraph. I got blammed for pirating Adobe Acrobat Writer. WHAT?!? It does not even exist, but they gave me warning 1 of 3. On 3 my Internet is out.

    Well adobe, I love you for your programs, and I hate you because of this incident and your outrageus prices! I hate you! I hate you! But I really really want you.

  27. By Onecore posted on September 12, 2007 at 12:01 pm
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    Hi alex nice post.

    I must say piracy will turn sometime into customers cause many people if they like product purchase it if they have any company setup or have atleast small buisness or freelance.anyway,it is working in their favour some way or other.

    Borland discovered it much earlier and made turbo c++ in explorer edition which in turn reduced much piracy for them,now people who use their product buy it for the final pro product.which is what i think their method works with explorer editions.

    take look at codegear and then tell me if adobe starts the same they will have benefits also.

  28. By Ay Uaxe posted on September 17, 2007 at 11:34 am
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    If Adobe priced their products in the realm of reality, more people would buy them directly from Adobe. People use questionable software because the cost of purchase directly from Adobe is prohibitive, sometimes even in a business environment. At some point, Adobe has fully amortized its investment in Acrobat 6 or 7 and should make it available for nominal cost to those who can’t afford or don’t need 8. Greed is more the problem than piracy.

  29. By Solomon posted on December 9, 2008 at 5:41 pm
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    I liked your article, thank you!
    I totally agree with your theory. The reason I decided to search about the issue is the exact same reason. I think Adobe cs4 is very easy to crack, from my experiance, and it got me thinkign if they did that on purpose. How can this be? This must be so because they meant to make it? I don’t think a corporate as big as Adobe would make sich a silly mistake.

  30. By Demiurge posted on January 9, 2009 at 8:42 am
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    Why don’t software companies take a hint from MMO games? Why not sell the full versions of software for a nominal fee say $45.oo then charge a smaller fee monthly, yearly or whatever for upgrades or the right to use the software? I don’t know about you but I could definitely afford a “pay-to-play” model for Adobe software and would not mind at all paying $12.00 bucks a month to keep using it and when my total hits the “real” price of the software at market price $1700 or so just charge me for the small upgrades and hit me again with the big $45 dollar “expansion pack” every year. I think they could make more money this way. Lord knows how much I’ve spent on a video game that did nothing but take my money and time at least with this software you can make money. Jut my thoughts.

  31. By Dim Wit posted on January 24, 2009 at 6:41 pm
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    What? Are you NUTS?! Adobe WANTS to go out of business and it’s obvious! Adobe almost never allows trial copies or ANY copies of their software to be used without first being payed for (although there are certain exceptions like Flash or Reader). Therefore, I say let’s HELP them! Let’s help Adobe go out of business by enforcing Adobe’s requirement for payment for software that might not even be used. Let’s help Adobe and any one else so stupid as to adopt this pay first “policy” since they don’t see any value in allowing software to be used on a trial basis or even for free. I mean if they can’t see the value in someone potentially buying their products five times over as you have illustrated then perhaps narrow minded vendors like Adobe SHOULD be out of business! So let’s all HELP Adobe by helping ENFORCE their (and anyone else’s) legal rights!

  32. By Rachel posted on May 30, 2009 at 7:00 am
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    Yeah, the prices are ridiculous. However, now there are sites, like Academic Superstore, which sell various softwares, like Adobe, Autodesk, and Apple at discounted prices (ex. Maya is $2,000 regularly, but only $400 if you send in proof that you’re a college or high school student). Ad0be should definitely look into discounts.

  33. By Tim posted on August 22, 2009 at 11:46 am
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    I agree that adobe price’s are way to high. It is a good idea for adobe to focus some of it’s products to students at a discounted price because it will lead to further purchases from adobe of their products. Also i believe adobe would not be as sucsessful as it is now without piracy! Not that I think piracy is a good thing though. I also agree with Demiurge’s idea because that will allow people to have the software legally, yet also not kill the budget.

  34. By John posted on September 11, 2009 at 7:15 am
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    I pirate Adobe software. There. Someone had to say it.

  35. TrackbackGraphic Design » Graphic Design August 7, 2007 10:55 amDevlounge Article: Piracy - Adobe’s Best Friend?Piracy - Adobe’s Best Friend? « GreenFloornew mac convert - Page 2 - eXceem