Adobe’s Creative Cloud Sparks Thunderous Revolt

Adobe Systems Incorporated recently announced that it will soon exit the software business—meaning all of Adobe’s current software applications will be moved completely to the cloud—potentially holding hostage the artistic and intellectual property of an end user should one lapse in payment of monthly fees.

For more than a decade, it’s been an open secret that Adobe has a monopoly on many, if not most, of the first-choice tools for digital creativity, and creatives everywhere have allowed the company that great privilege of power. Adobe now seems to interpret that power as divine right, but the earthquake of Adobe’s heavy handedness has triggered a tsunami that now threatens to capsize its long-standing and cozy relationship with a worldwide legion of artists and photographers, graphic designers, filmmakers and illustrators, who are showing resentment and resistance, and a willingness to put up a global fight against this corporate friend.

Thus far, Adobe representatives are all smiles about their decision. Notwithstanding, with this revelation, and in less than a week, evidence of an unambiguous revolt by users is well underway.

An email forwarded to me on May 10th by someone in the know, quotes Allan Arnold, a fellow artist, and glimpses why so many are so upset:

“I can spend several hundred dollars on something and not have any software to show for it…you have to maintain a subscription if you ever want to see your own files again…it’s like building a prison for yourself…you’re stuck forever.”

A few days before this happened, Derek Schoffstall, an undergraduate student, who is also a fine-art photographer, created a new petition at targeting Adobe’s cloud decision. ”It seems that you have decided to forsake everyone but big business,” writes Schoffstall in the petition, and on May 12th I had an email chat with Schoffstall, first asking what drove him to write the petition. Here’s some of what he had to say:

I have worked with Adobe software since 2007, when I was first introduced to CS2 in my first design class during my sophomore year of high school. Photography is something that I am passionate about.

After reading about Adobe’s decision, I wasn’t surprised. It made sense for a company without serious competition…it was a smart business decision. Their “Creative Cloud” (CC) model even makes sense for larger businesses. However, the reason that I started the petition on was because I think that Adobe is disregarding an entire section of their customer base. This includes small businesses, freelancers, hobbyists, and students. Even though the price is steep, paying a one-time fee to own Adobe’s software is a better deal than paying a monthly fee to rent their software.

I am not against Adobes CC per se. However, there are two things about Adobes CC that bother me the most. First and foremost is that it is being forced onto the consumer. Yes, we still have access to CS6 now, but when it is time to upgrade in the future our only choice will be the cloud.

There should be a choice between CS and CC, which is why we are demanding Adobe to restart future CS development. Second is the fact that after you sign up to rent their software, if you stop paying at any time, you no longer will be able to open [your] the files that you once had access to.

I then asked Schoffstall what he hoped the outcome of his petition would be, and he replied in part saying:

Adobe claims to love feedback from their customers, so a successful outcome from this would be if Adobe listened to the people who have signed.

I think that Adobe was prepared for this backlash, so maybe it won’t affect them whatsoever.

One thing I can say for sure, if there ever was a time for competition to enter the market, now is it.

The petition’s title is “Eliminate the mandatory “creative cloud” subscription model,” and has exceeded 1,000 signatories per day. Schoffstall’s petition was created on May 6th, and within a week more than 10,000 have piled on, and here’s a couple thoughts from those signing on:

Due to…the “upgrade at gun point” nature of the change, and the forced “renting” of software at prices that could be jacked up at anytime, I will not continue with the Adobe brand. It’s suicide for a small business model.

– Lee Whitman ALEXANDRIA, VA

I find this an unbelievably shameless move to capitalize on Adobe’s dominant market position. There must be laws to prevent companies abusing their monopoly in ways like this.

– Martin Sammtleben REYKJAVIK, ICELAND

In tandem with the petition, media coverage is growing, including Klint Finley who wrote at Wired Magazine in an article entitled “Unhappy Customers Want to Parachute from Adobe’s Creative Cloud,” saying although “pundits see it as a necessary move, many customers are worried that the change will end up costing them more money and give them less control over their applications.”

Indeed, we are worried—very worried—and with good reason.

Adobe’s exclusive shift to the cloud will fundamentally change forever the way digital technology is accessed and used to create and produce visual art, website design and administration, the creation of marketing and advertising collateral, feature films, music videos and other essential audio/visual functions in our vast and diverse virtual and real world. And while the cloud promises heavenly visions of wonder for Adobe, for creative foot soldiers like me, the cloud at best resembles pie-in-the-sky, and at worse a slow-motion coup d’etat over creative license.