Modern Software Experience

2008-03-26

Adobe PhotoShop Express

Adobe just introduced Adobe PhotoShop Express. Adobe is trying to paint a picture of Adobe introducing a free variant of Adobe PhotoShop, but it just is not.

not PhotoShop

Adobe PhotoShop is not a free variant of Adobe PhotoShop at all. It is not PhotoShop Lite or anything like that. It just is not PhotoShop And oh, it is not free either.

Adobe PhotoShop Express should be could Adobe Photo Editor. Adobe is trying to position APE as Software as a Service (SaaS), I say it is a Flash application.

I could go on to say that it looks quite nicely and does not perform to bad, but you really need to know about other aspects of APE before you use it.

not free

APE is not free. To use APE, you need to login. To log in, you need to join first. I will kindly refrain from remarking on the flash application used to get your details, apart from saying that I recommend it heartily as a how-not-to topic for user interface designers seeking something horribly to write about.

Anyway, when you join up, you agree to the Terms of Use and the Privacy Policy. Even when you already allowed scripts on www.adobe.com and www.photoshop.com, these will not show.
To actually read the policies, you also have to allow pop-ups. Interesting, the text of the privacy policy makes it very clear that Adobe is aware that your personal information is not valueless. Thus, their own privacy policy belies their marketing of APE as a free service. The policy uses sleep-inducing sentences to turn you off, but even a drowsy skim of the needlessly long and complicated text makes it abundantly clear that they are sharing your data with business partners, and complement the data you provide with third party databases to further profile you. And, oh, seem more than willing to give in to the first lawyer who claims to need your details.

USA only

Adobe’s disingenuous official position, not revealed in their press release, but made very clear by their join-up screen, is that APE is only available in the United States of America, and not in other countries.
Surely, that already tells you all you need to know about their privacy policy?

lame legal smokescreen

By the way, actually signing up from somewhere else is perfectly possible, and Adobe knows it. Other than the idiosyncratic join-up app itself, I encountered absolute no problems signing up from the Netherlands. The USA-only join-up screen seems a lame legal smokescreen for an apparently deliberately dishonest introduction.

legal limitations?

Flash apps work around the world, so there is no technical reason for this limitation. Is Adobe brass aware of issues that limit the legality of APE outside the USA? If so, they are not exactly going out of their way to inform their users about it...

Terms of Use

two Terms of use

The real stinker is the Terms of Use.
First of, note that there are two separate Terms of Use and that you need to agree to both. There is one for General Terms and one for Additional Terms. Especially when you do not notice that there are two terms sheets you are agreeing to, you are most likely to look at the one for Additional Terms. However, the General Terms state the following about the Use of Your Content under point 8a:

Use of Your Content

Adobe does not claim ownership of Your Content. However, with respect to Your Content that you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas of the Services, you grant Adobe a worldwide, royalty-free, nonexclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, and fully sublicensable license to use, distribute, derive revenue or other remuneration from, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, publicly perform and publicly display such Content (in whole or in part) and to incorporate such Content into other Materials or works in any format or medium now known or later developed.

In other words: you upload it, we own it, thank you and screw you.

Adobe PhotoSteal Express

Adobe is not just claiming the (world-wide) right to display your photos in the gallery or saying that they cannot be held responsible if others steal your photos from the gallery. They are claiming that they can do with your photos as they please.

license to steal

They can modify your work any way they like and you will not able to do anything about it, because you gave them permission already. Worse, they may your personal picture unmodified, as the friendly face on that new bottle of male medicine plastered on billboards all over the world.
Far-fetched? Ask how Alison Chang feels about Virgin Mobile using her Flickr photo as a pen friend you should dump, because the photographer posted them under a Creative Commons license.

They can sell your photos to third parties, perhaps make big money on that one perfect shot you invested years of your life in, and rake in the cash without owning you a cent.

Sure, this is only the case for "public accessible" content, but the whole point of APE seems to be to create a PhotoShop variation of Flickr, to let you brag about your photoshopping skills by displaying your work in a gallery - but the moment you display it, it is no longer yours.

reassurances from Nack?

Predictably, the public outcry over these terms overshadowed the marketing glitz that Adobe was pushing into the limelight. Adobe’s John Nack blogged about it, but his words are hardly any reassurance. After all, his blog carries the legal note that "The views expressed in this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Adobe Systems Incorporated.".

In other words, whatever he says may sound reassuring but it does not mean a thing. Adobe is still abusing the terms of use to legally steal your content.

APE is an attempt to build a licensable database of digital stock photos, perhaps to compete with Getty Images, at the expense of naive users.

updates

2011-04-22: additional terms

Adobe broke the original link for the general terms, and redirects the link for the additional terms to a current page with general terms. The broken links have been removed.

links