I recently ran into a friend who mentioned she’d just bought a $1000 lens for her relatively new DSLR. She then proceeded to ask me if I could get her a copy of Photoshop CS5. I said, no, but that upgrading from CS2 wasn’t that expensive. She replied “Oh, I don’t want to pay for it.”. Maybe she was unclear on the concept that I develop software. For photographers.

Now, I realize that going into a camera store and stealing a $1000 lens is difficult and stealing a $500 software program is relatively easy. But just because it’s easy to steal software doesn’t make it any less wrong. If you can afford to buy a $1000 lens, you can afford to help support the people that make the software you use to organize, enhance, manipulate, and print your photos. We’re all real folks trying to make a living and, even though piracy is given with software, sometimes it hurts when it’s thrown in your face as my friend did (unintentionally, sure, but here’s someone that’s relatively well paid just casually throwing out she wants to steal Photoshop.).

I usually don’t lose much sleep over piracy. Much of it is done by people that would never buy the program. They  download the software, use it once or twice, and then don’t use it again. But for artists that use something like Photoshop every day, it does dismay me a little about how common piracy is. Some photographers and artists that would be up in arms if their work was copied and used for an ad without being paid, think nothing of copying software from a friend. Yet, it’s the same principle.

I don’t care if you download a pirated copy of our plugins to try out. But if you find it useful, please… support those of us that work our asses off to bring you cool, useful software.

Yes, there are real people behind all this software… Jim, Garrick, Debbie, and Maggie (see above). And we all greatly appreciate all of you who do find our software useful and help us continue to do something we love… allowing us to create cool software that hopefully makes your jobs easier!

32 thoughts on “Piracy”

  1. Very well done, Jim. Unfortunately I think the people that will take the time to read this won’t be the ones you need to reach. I appreciate the time and effort developers put in to bring a product to market…these things don’t come cheaply. That and trying to run the business!

  2. Maybe so… but you might be surprised. A lot of people don’t think about this (like my friend), and copy software without giving much thought to it because it’s easy to do. As a student, I bought my first piece of graphics software (KPT 2.0) because of a similar rant by Kai Krause (and then 2 1/2 years later I was working for his company :-). And yes, that means that I pirated software when I was in college… but it just took someone standing up and saying, “hey, I work hard on this stuff. Please don’t steal it.” to get me to change my view on it.

  3. I am an Apple Reseller that specializes in consulting and sales of computer systems for creative applications (primarily music, but some video and photography). I am constantly amazed at my customers who openly tell me about the cracked plug-ins they are using…. especially the songwriters, the same ones that bitch about people downloading their songs for free. I want to scream, Can you not see the karmic connection here?!?!?

    I am at a cross-roads of conscience at about this. These people are my clients, many of whom I count as friends, so I have remained silent, nether expressing approval or disapproval of their actions. However, I feel like I have to take a stand on this… though I’m not exactly sure what that will mean. I am about to start a blog and this may be my first topic. Thanks for the post.

  4. Thanks, Jim. As someone who started like your friend and “got legal” over the past four years, I think it’s important for folks like you and people like me to just keep repeating the message. I didn’t find it that big a deal to buy licenses for all my essential software (the big ticket items like Adobe CS, I mean), even though my software budget went from nearly zero dollars per year to around $2000. Still, I wouldn’t likely have done it if not for another co-worker who repeated the value of paying for software. (BTW, I heard Kai rant about this, too, a few times! Maybe if you had been there….) :-)

  5. Tell that friend to buy Adobe Lightroom 3 instead of Photoshop. It costs 42% less than Photoshop CS5 and has 90%+ of the photo editing power that Photoshop has and in my opinion 1000% more organizational and database management capabilities of PS+Bridge. I say this as an amateur/aspiring pro who shot over 20,000 images of the moon in 2009 and used Lightroom for 100% of my image editing and organization which I then turned into a 372 page book with 600 different moon images total and entered in this years Blurb Photography Book Now competition. Photoshop rocks but Lightroom RULES! And when they can afford to legitimately buy Photoshop it integrates well with Lightroom, and there are tons of LR plugins that enhance its power even more.

  6. This is something that needs to be said, and said often. I’m appalled at how frequently in the Photoshop and Nikon lists to which I belong someone comes bouncing in asking for a link to a site at which he or she can score a copy of Photoshop. Whether they don’t know, or don’t care, or whether it simply never occurs to them, that the vast majority of us (I hope!) pay for our software, and don’t at all appreciate those who steal it, they seem to have some sort of bizarre entitlement mentality.

    These are often the same people who come back two weeks later complaining that Photoshop is “too hard”, and demanding which “button” to push to achieve some complex effect. They want it free, they want it easy, and they expect to be overnight experts.

    Why weren’t they just put down at birth?

  7. Well said. It has always amazed me that people cannot understand that a piece of software is as much a “product” as a pair of shoes, television, or any other item you spend money for. And don’t EVEN get me started about people who don’t understand the concept of licensing.

  8. Creative karma can be a bit of a bitch. ;-) But that’s essentially what prompted this post, as my friend would like to sell her photos. But it’s something all of us can relate to whether we’re photographers, musicians, or software engineers. However, I think it can be helpful to remind folks that on the other side of that download (whether it’s a mp3, a photo, or software) is another human being that put a lot of time and energy into creating it for you.

  9. Yes, all artists – and that includes programmers, surely – deserve to get fair pay for their art. I do not hesitate to show my disdain for people seeking to rip off intellectual property of all kinds. It’s just plain WRONG. Aside from that, I also offer the equally good incentive that operating a business based upon software without sanctioned support is just plain stupid. You need the support of the companies that manufacture and sell these products if you want your own business to be consistent. It’s your reputation on the line, too.

  10. Well said Jim. Now if we could just convince clients why we can’t just give our work away for free, then we’ll really be making progress! ;)

  11. To play devil’s advocate for a moment: Keep in mind the core purpose of computer code is to quickly and reliably copy data from point A to point B. (And maybe do a little math along the way). Our digital lifestyle has thrived on the fact that such perfect replications are so reliable and so essentially cheap to do. Given this, is it any wonder the average end consumer sees a fairly hyper inflated price for mass availability of many digital medias? Arguably much of that cost is overhead of middlemen and the hoops we have been jumping thru to restrict the natural ability of digital media to be copied to only those who have “paid”. Earlier someone mentioned that s/w is a product like a television… what about a television PROGRAM? We’ve been wrestling with “free tv” for half a century! We’ve just moved the argument over to the internet!

  12. I don’t need to worry about affording expensive software (like Photoshop) since I work for Digital Anarchy and we have license contracts. But I do always pay for utility software, like Fetch, Audacity and Audiohijack. And I have ALWAYS paid for music since downloads became available, mostly as Amazon mp3’s these days, and never used free services like Napster.

    Oops, maybe Audiohijack isn’t the best example here considering its potential… But you get my drift. I pay for my music (and apps) because I support the artists and creators.


  13. I’ve been using Photoshop since v2 and since then have had numerous legit copies as i was using it my business. Now having retired and making no money and on a very limited income, i still like to dabble in PS. I could never justify buying a copy and I do not give or sell anything that I produce in PS.
    Perhaps I should discard PS CS5 and go back to using v5 ( which is legit)
    On the other hand maybe not.


  14. God bless your wonderfullly written note! I am so tired of “clients” that were able to bootleg PS when they were at an educational facility and think I can help them develop further their desire of plug-ins and upgrades. What idiiots! I recently had a groom who is a cardiologist lift tons of software before he left his institution of higher learning! He paid tons more for his flowers at the wedding then our $3500. basic album package. He was dying to have free some of my finished work that appeared in the album. What a jerk. I wonder if he is going to treat a lot of patients free….

  15. I feel the same way when a friend asks me if it’s okay to “borrow” that new music CD I just bought so they can “make a copy.” I try to gently say “no” and explain that it’s not fair to the musician to do that. Sometimes they get it, but most of the time I get expressions of mystery.

  16. Ted

    As usual, you can rationalize stealing all you want. If you can’t afford Photoshop you should buy something cheaper. Photoshop Elements, Corel Photopaint, and Serif PhotoPlus are all under $100 and have most of the capabilities of Photoshop. If you can afford a digital camera, you can afford $89 for Photoshop Elements. If what you’re doing can only be done by Photoshop, then you’re doing more than ‘dabbling’. If you’re comfortable with stealing software, so be it. But all the things you mention are just rationalizations.

  17. Kat

    I think it’s an educational process to some degree. Most folks have no idea how much work goes into what we do, whether it’s creating software or creating a wedding album (You mean you have to edit, color correct, and layout all those photos?). I’m sure the cardiologist thought you just took the pictures, downloaded everything to your computer, and pressed a button… boom! Instant wedding album! All you can do is let them know how much work went into it and hope they ‘get it’. Some will, some won’t. c’est la vie. Hopefully the ones that get it are the ones that turn into repeat clients. :-)

  18. I don’t suppose the irony of having “anarchy” all over the site and then this plea for order makes any impact, does it?

  19. It is really sad why people do not think of software as a commodity, the countless hours and years of work, sleepless nights have gone in producing these world class applications. (Hats off to all software developers, my respects to them) these guys make our lives easier. After all this effort, their asking price is just meager. Please do not steal their livelihood. Pay them their price, they will produce more for you.
    As a very small (Tamil fonts) developer myself, had to stop my development since I cannot support myself without any revenue because of the piracy.

  20. Eric-

    lol… maybe so. But I suppose it depends on how you view Anarchy. I don’t consider it a plea for order as much as a plea to respect other individuals and what they do. I’m not going to pull a Steve Jobs and send the police to your house to break your door down. ;-) Just asking for a little respect.

  21. Hey, here’s an idea: Steal your friend’s lens and send it to me, and I’ll send her a legal copy of Photoshop CS5 in return. That way she can get a legit copy of the software “without having to pay for it.”

    Okay, confession time: I pirated a copy of Photoshop when I was just starting out in photography. That was Photoshop 2.0, way back in the last century! I decided it was insanely great software, so I bought an upgrade to 3.0 — and many, many upgrades since then. My last Adobe purchase was THREE FULL COPIES of Photoshop CS4 and THREE FULL COPIES of Lightroom 2. (Last year I started teaching Photoshop and Lightroom on 24″ iMacs.) That one “free copy” of Photoshop 2 ultimately generated thousands of dollars of software sales for Adobe. P.S. I also send shareware developers their requested fee if I like the software; otherwise, I delete it after deciding it’s not what I need.

  22. My students constantly discuss (proudly even) how much music they have stolen by downloading it over limewire, etc. I always ask them whether they stuff steaks in their pants at the grocery store. “Of course not!” they respond. Then I get to give the rant about intellectual property, but I don’t know how much of it sticks.

    Thanks Jim for you thoughtful words on this subject. I am guessing your friend doesn’t actually use any of your plugins?

  23. John,

    If they’re photo or design students, hopefully all you need to do is ask them if they expect to get paid for their work. How are they going to feel if their work is used without permission and without compensation?

  24. I agree with Jim and David. Right words. I was in the beta test for PSCS5. About 150 people were the core of the team/n practice for testers to get a free copy of the software. Adobe is the first firm I have beta tested with who refuses to follow suit. While I strongly disagreed with Adobe’s short sighted corporate policy, it does not give me the right to pirate software. No one does. Never-period– end of story. Those who do, harm everyone else. While some may do this, it is not a reasonable action, nor a legal one. The net has a ‘wild west’ side to it were some thing anything goes. Not so and piracy is a violation of the law.

  25. A friend of mine whose sons are wizards at procuring current feature films for him to view on his home theater can’t understand why I won’t view them. As a photographer who relies on copyright for a living I do my very best to honor others’ copyrights as well, which includes, of course, the software I use in my business and personal life.

  26. First let me say that I agree with all of the above and use legit software for all commercial productions. However, I live live in Nepal and I can tell you that 99% of my competition does not. And why not? Well, mostly because western prices for software (take a typical plug-in) is usually well over a year’s salary for an Indian or Nepali creative. The entire economic scale is drastically different here, and that’s why almost all folks go down to the market and pick up CS5 for 1 USD. Most of South Asia is like this, although more developed country governments like Thailand are changing this trend by cracking down on pirated software sales. But in other countries, “piracy” is state sanctioned in the sense that “pirates” own businesses and pay taxes just like everyone else. I am not sure how this will ever change until the disparity in incomes around the world normalizes to some coherent and fair level…or software companies begin to sell their software based on a different scales, ie. developed country vs. under-developed. Just my thoughts from Nepal!

  27. Weezimp, Free TV programming? Really? Nothing is free. Advertisers pay for that programming. Someone has to pay or it goes away. I see many record companies and recording studios going out of business because of “free music”. I know many talented and respected audio engineers mowing lawns and working at the local grocery store because of “free” music. Real people with real families get hurt when people feel entitled to others hard work and creativity without paying for it. None of us could survive as photographers if all our work was passed around for free on the internet an no one was willing to pay for our creativity.

    Having worked for several software companies, I can tell you that the “hoops” they make the legal owners jump through to make legal copies are absolutely necessary for them to stay in business. One great music software company I worked for made the decision to drop copy protection from their software. Sales immediately dropped by 80% and they ultimately went out of business. Their cost are not hyper-inflated as you stated. Even though the cost of materials may be cheap, there is great expense in developing a great piece of software. Likewise, there is cost associated with distribution and marketing that must be recovered before making a fair profit.

    I will agree with you on one point… you ARE being the devil’s advocate, as he is the one who wants us to justify stealing. Just saying.

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