Partly Cloudy

digitalfilms by Oliver Peters

This past Monday at their Max event, Adobe clarified its plans going forward. Gone is the “next” label, as well as any mention of “Creative Suite 7”. Henceforth, nearly all of Adobe’s content creation products will be sold only via Adobe’s cloud subscription model, under the Creative Cloud (or CC) banner. Premiere Pro, Photoshop, et al, become Premiere Pro CC, Photoshop CC and so on. With a few exceptions, like Lightroom, perpetual licenses (where you “own” the software) are gone. Needless to say, this announcement brought a quick and largely negative user reaction. Clearly Adobe was having its own “FCP X moment”. Hitler wasn’t happy (warning: offensive language). Of course, he wasn’t happy with Final Cut Pro X, either. Before I continue, here are links to Adobe’s FAQ and official responses/clarifications from Adobe’s community, Dennis Radeke and Al Mooney in various forums, so you have the straight scoop.

Although we tend to think of software ownership like any other asset, digital media plays by a different set of rules. What you own is a license to use the software freely according to the terms of the EULA. It’s not an asset that you can use in an unrestricted manner, such as unlimited installation or resale on the open market. In fact, in the “bad ole” Avid days of turnkey systems, you actually had to pay a transfer fee when selling a system to another user. This was often waived, but did nothing to endear users to Avid. Even today, you typically cannot legally sell used (already registered) software to others in the same way that you sell used computers – although people do it ever day without issue. The bottom line is that you may have application files on your drives or installation DVD-ROMs, but you don’t own these in the same way you own a physical, printed book – or a printer.

Clearly the concept of “ownership” is limited in the digital world, but at least what we understand as “owning” is completely different than renting. Essentially that’s the shift Adobe has made. If you buy a monthly or annual Creative Cloud subscription, then you are renting the software covered under that agreement. The term “cloud” is a bit misleading, since the application software is downloaded and resides on your local computer, just like any other software. The software is authorized over the internet and it pings Adobe’s license servers monthly to see if you’ve paid your bill. This is more or less like the cable company, which installs a set-top receiver/DVR box in your house, though you don’t own that hardware. With Adobe, this shifts your use of the software from a capital outlay to a monthly expense, like other services or utilities costs. If you quit your CC subscription, your software is de-authorized and you lose the ability to use it or even open existing project files. The software can stay on your computer and you can renew the subscription at some point down the road if you like. read more...

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