Last week, Adobe said that older versions of Creative Cloud apps—including Photoshop and Lightroom — would no longer be available to subscribers. This week, some users are getting messages from Adobe warning they could be at “risk of potential claims of infringement by third parties” should they continue to use outdated versions of their apps.
The new language on “third-party infringement” is an interesting development. In a blog, Adobe explained that Creative Cloud subscribers would only have access to the two most recent versions of its software. However, it didn’t really give a reason besides the boilerplate explanation that newer versions promised “optimal performance and benefits.”
In an email to Gizmodo, an Adobe spokesperson provided the following statement:
“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 authorised versions. Unfortunately, customers who continue to use or deploy older, unauthorised versions of Creative Cloud may face potential claims of infringement by third parties. We cannot comment on claims of third-party infringement, as it concerns ongoing litigation.”
While Adobe won’t spill on which “third-party” might hold you liable for using old software, the company is currently being sued by Dolby for copyright infringement. Basically, a legal complaint from March details that Adobe licensed some technology from Dolby for its applications. Prior to Creative Cloud, the two companies struck a deal based on the number of discs sold for certain apps. However, the complaint alleges Adobe got cagey with its numbers once it switched over to the cloud.
Essentially, it was easy for Adobe to report sales when it was selling its software on physical discs. However, the way Creative Cloud works, creatives can pay one subscription fee to gain access to various programs. Meaning, one subscription gets you access to multiple programs with Dolby’s tech — except Dolby got paid only once. For example, the complaint details that Adobe’s Master Collection is advertised as one product, but actually contains “four products that each have a separate and independent copy of Dolby Technology” and that each requires its own royalty.
What this actually has to do with Creative Cloud subscribers is murky. After all, it’s not their fault if they were sold licenses for programs they didn’t actually have access to. It’s not abundantly clear if the Dolby case is the exact reason why Adobe has decided to stop allowing access to older versions of its software — but the infringement language makes it a distinct possibility. If it is the reason, however, it’s also some fuzzy logic to penalise creatives for some alleged corporate royalty dodging when many have been faithfully paying their subscription fees.
And before you think “Well, just update then?”, it’s important to note that there are lots of reasons why a creative may choose to use an older version of software. For instance, they may be operating on older computers that don’t have the specs to run increasingly bloated software. And while cloud-based services definitely have their benefits, it does highlight the issue that you essentially do not own the software you’re paying for — unlike with previous physical copies.
Still, there’s not much that creators can do aside from updating, finding alternative programs, or pulling out their favourite eyepatch and resorting to some good old fashioned piracy. Or, you could take to the internet to vent frustration in the form of some very good Adobe memes.