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What Has Adobe Been Up to Lately?

Adobe has been having a field day of late, searching for new ways to annoy their customers who are photographers. That is, if you believe all those rumors being spread by all of us Adobe customers who are photographers.

First came rumors that Adobe was doubling the price of their entry-level Photography plan. Including a license to use Lightroom and Lightroom Classic as well as Photoshop, together with 20GB of cloud storage for $9.99 per month, the Photography plan is the way that most of us came to terms with this whole Creative Cloud subscription model of licensing when Adobe introduced it back in 2014. If you added up the occasional costs for version upgrades, this new plan worked out to at least be in the same ballpark as what all of us had been paying under the previous Creative Suite licensing model. It depended on how often you had been upgrading of course, but at least the case could be made that it was worth it to take the leap into the Clouds and always have the latest and greatest. Doubling the cost of the plan though would render that rationalization no longer tenable. That big of a jump would clearly constitute a significant price increase in anything.

Indeed, if you went out to Adobe's website around the beginning of the month, you may well have found that plan no longer listed. Instead, the lowest cost option then offered included the same software, but bundled with a full terabyte of cloud storage for $19.99. Even if you needed more cloud storage, that price represented a pretty high cost for the extra space. Ouch. We all know Adobe needs to make a profit, but come on now.

Muddying the waters though were reports that other users could still access the old plan while some found only the higher priced offering with more cloud storage. Eventually, Adobe issued a statement that "from time to time" they run various tests on their website, sometimes including pricing and options, and that they were "currently running a number of tests on" While they did cleverly avoid having to explicitly confirm or deny whether they were messing with us, they seem to have been, at least inadvertently. I suppose you could call it a trial balloon to see how loudly their customers would yell were they to make such a change permanent. For the time being, it would appear we Adobe customers have had their voices heard, and the crisis has been averted. If you can't find the old $9.99 price available on their website when it comes time to pay Adobe next, reports are that you can contact Adobe directly and they will honor it. But consider this a warning that some form of general price increase is likely coming.

Then, just as this whole thing seemed to be sorting itself out, more than a few Adobe users reported receiving nasty letters threatening them with potential "infringement claims" from third-party companies if they continued to use older versions of Adobe software rather than upgrade. Ouch again. I didn't receive such a letter myself and haven't personally seen one, but there are copies posted online from other Adobe customers, curiously addressed to "Dear Valued Customer." I guess that depends on your point of view.

Although this isn't certain, these letters most likely have their roots in a legal skirmish between Adobe and Dolby Labs having nothing to with Photoshop or Lightroom. But if you're a photographer who also use other Adobe products, you may get caught up in this dispute. Long ago, Adobe agreed to license certain technology from Dolby based on the number of units shipped. Dolby wants to audit Creative Suite licenses to make sure Adobe is in compliance with the Dolby agreement, but Adobe doesn't want to let them. To limit their potential liability, or at least to limit their exposure to discovery, Adobe figured it was prudent to arm-twist their customers still using disputed software versions. If no one was using versions that are under dispute, the dispute might go away, or something like that. So, to whatever degree Adobe is looking out for their customers interests by warning that they might possibly get sued for infringing on third-parties, that only tells part of the story. Adobe is in no small measure looking out for their own interests to blunt the legal impact of this skirmish with Dolby. We have no way of knowing if Adobe has been underpaying Dolby or not, but it seems clear they don't want Dolby rummaging around in their books for some reason. That would make us mere pawns in this larger legal battle.

With traditional boxed software, an end-user's exposure to such licensing disputes would end when they paid their perpetual license fee as part of the purchase price. With subscription software, we pay Adobe ongoing, and Dolby wants whatever cut they are owed of that ongoing subscription revenue. So, if a user continues to use a disputed, older version of Adobe Creative Cloud software, they nonetheless have to keep paying for their Cloud subscription, and Adobe would have to potentially pay Dolby. So, Adobe wants everyone to upgrade. Complete with the attendant legal mumbo jumbo, by informing their customers not to use older versions, Adobe is attempting to deflecting some of the potential liability onto their paying customers if they continue with disputed versions, should the Dolby dispute ever get to that point. Another unexpected outcome of the shift to the subscription model it would seem.

Even though we can all upgrade to the latest Creative Cloud versions of our licensed applications, not everyone wants to. They might just want to stay with the version they know, having determined that any added features in the latest version aren't ones they personally need. I can relate to some degree as I've been a tad frustrated more than once to find that Adobe redid things in the user interface as part of some update and I had to go hunt for where they hid something I used. In the old boxed software days, for better or for worse, I generally upgraded every 18 months or so, and Adobe applications stayed consistent in between. Nothing much got added, but nothing got removed either. These days, the Cloud allows us to have much more frequent updates, for worse or for better.

And it's not just a resistance to learning new ways of doing things that holds some users back. Occasionally, Adobe has pushed updates out quickly on the heels of another when that predecessor version proved to contain a serious bug. Some users hold back on upgrades simply to avoid being on the bleeding edge.

But Adobe is going to make delaying upgrades more difficult in order to mitigate potential exposure to situations like Dolby. Going forward, they will only be making available direct download access to the two most recent major versions of Creative Cloud applications. This should be more than adequate for most of us, but at least some users will clearly be impacted, or else Adobe wouldn't have needed to take this step at all.

Anyway, that's what Adobe has been up to lately. Will any of this affect most of us anytime soon? Probably (hopefully) not, but it should give all of us pause for thought at least. The future is now. As we boldly walk forward with our heads in the Clouds, it does seem like a good idea to stay informed.

Date posted: May 26, 2019


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