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Protect Yourself From Pirated and Counterfeit Software

From time to time I encounter users who have unknowingly purchased counterfeit software. It is only after attempting to upgrade or seek support for their product that they discover the circumstance. No doubt, it’s a frustrating experience – but it’s one that can be avoided.

One common thread I usually find is people purchasing software from third parties, especially anyone offering an incredible deal on Adobe products. Offers of “Cheap OEM” software and 85% discounts just aren’t credible. The old adage applies, “If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is” (Please note that Student & Teacher editions can be offered at significant discounts but will be clearly labeled as such and sold through a limited number of authorized resellers).

Another common thread exists among users who purchase Adobe products with modest discounts from non-authorized resellers on Amazon MarketPlace, Best Buy Marketplace and other similar sites, like eBay or Craigslist. Users, in these cases, believe they’re purchasing from Amazon or Best Buy (who are Authorized Adobe Resellers), but are instead buying from third parties who post products through Marketplace avenues or classified ads on these sites.

Make sure your software is "sold by Amazon.com" (circled in red) and not from Amazon Marketplace (area designated with red "X" in the lower right).

Make sure your software is "sold by Amazon.com" (circled in red) and not from Amazon Marketplace (area designated with red "X" in the lower right).

The best way to ensure that the software you purchased is Adobe genuine software is to register your product on Adobe.com using your Adobe ID immediately after you purchase it. If it is a counterfeit product you’ll be able take action to return the product immediately.

Adobe’s site also offers a list of  Authorized Resellers and is often a handy reference to help avoid situations like these.

Yet another alarming trend is malware being introduced to pirated software. This is common through file sharing/torrents. Toward the end of last year, a Microsoft study indicated that “35 percent of the counterfeit software contained harmful code.”

Reactions to this will certainly range from “users who pirate software get what they deserve” to the invariable “Adobe is just trying to scare you into buying their software.” Of course, my colleagues and I would like to get paid for our work. Who wouldn’t? In all honesty, I also want people to be successful with our products and avoid the stress and heartache of being scammed or hacked.

To that end, I’ve provided a few links below to help users make informed decisions, ensure they purchase Adobe Genuine Software, and altogether avoid counterfeit products, scams and malware:

 

Best,
Jeffrey Tranberry
Adobe Systems, Product Manager, Chief Customer Advocate – Digital Imaging

TAGGED AS:

Wise words. I surely got taken on one this past spring and was SO mad at myself for falling for it. The new subscriptions that Adobe offers I believe may help people feel a little less desperate. I can come up with $35 a month a lot easier than $1K (being that I’m in full-time ministry). I’ve been limping along on PS7 for about a decade now and am both excited and a little overwhelmed at the thought of relearning the current version! Thanks for all you guys do – your hard work is appreciated!!!

One way that software vendors like Adobe can limit pirated software, is to lower the cost. With Photoshop being a standard, perhaps when a new Version of Photoshop comes out, lowering the cost of the previous version to something a hobbiest can afford would make the pirated versions seem less attractive.

Just a thought

    Thanks. Price may play a part in it, but as another commenter points out, Adobe offers alternatives for users who aren’t professionals and are price sensitive, like Photoshop Elements – and even Lightroom. Cost shouldn’t affect someone’s decision to steal. I’d like to own a Porche 911, but I drive a VW Passat. Just because the Porche is outside my budget doesn’t give me the right to steal it, right?

      I have used elements itself. It is rather uhhh pedestrian. Many hobbiests and small budget users like webcomic artists need more power and control that such a program does not offer. For a home user touching up photos yeah Elements is a good choice. For artists it is not. So I can see why many webcomicers and other artists end up stealing copies of photoshop. As for myself I use Manga Studio for my comics and paint.net/gimp for more complex art. Id rather use photoshop but ya know….small budget webcomic artist.

      The difference is the, say, $50,000 payed for the Porsche, a lot of that goes towards the company paying for the resources that it cost to make the car, from the wires in the stereo to the metals in the cars frame. However, that ~$100 for Photoshop just goes to the company to pay off the amount it cost to make the program itself, and then the rest goes straight to the pockets of Adobe employees so they can afford to buy Porsche 911′s. It costs companies next to nothing to make a copy of discs of the program it already made and ship them to retailers.

      And then add “upgrades” that are just tiny additions so they can ship out what should be free updates for about $50 upgrade fee.

      Charging $100 for Gimp (free) with a liquify tool, it should be expected that only 40% of people who buy it are people who do photography for a living and can afford it.

        While I tend to disagree with piracy, the “you wouldn’t steal a car” comparison is a very weak one.

People who are using Photoshop for personal or other non-professional reasons can get along very well with one of the Elements packages. It may be “photoshop lite”, but it’s a pretty robust “lite”. Certainly does the trick for me, and it’s only in the $100.00 range. I really like mine and think it’s the perfect compromise for the hobbyists who don’t necessarily need the whole deal.

Btw, Photoshop 4 was the only pirated software I ever owned – and that was only because there was no way I could afford the whole package, especially since I wasn’t using it professionally. What a mistake that was though. Nothing but trouble, no “help” files available, no upgrading, no troubleshooting…. sometimes you really get what you pay for. Better to shell out for the real Photoshop Elements than a fake Photoshop CE.

    Fiona,

    Good point. Photoshop Elements is an incredibly powerful application for people who are price sensitive and don’t need ‘Pro’ level features (Like CMYK, etc). The most recent version (Photoshop Elements 9) includes support for layer masking and some of the really cool Content Aware functionality from Photoshop CS5.

    Cheers,

    - Jeff

hey Jeff,
nice article and good advice.

I would like to see Adobe allow students studying ‘creative arts’ subjects access to the Suite applications for free. This is the route that Autodesk have taken with the ‘Autodesk Education Community’, all of their major design apps are available free to students and faculty. Microsoft have a similar, but slightly more limited approach; they give free licenses to their operating systems, developer tools, and major applications to Computer Science students (and maybe other students too).
I think in the longer term this would help reduce piracy by avoiding a common ‘starting point’.

alex.

    Thanks Alex,

    Good point. While we don’t offer our products to students for free, we do give a generous discount (80% of Photoshop Extended): http://www.adobe.com/go/gntray_store_edu

    Students can upgrade those to the commercial license when future releases are out and they’re out of school – so that gives a pretty good starting point.

    I know I took advantage of this opportunity when I was in college years ago when I purchased my first copy of Photoshop (Version 3.0 – w/ Layers!)

    Cheers,

    - Jeff

Good point. Moreover you can try Digimarc, SignMyImage or Vericuff.

Hi Jeffery,

Thank you for a great article, very informative!

I’m going to spread the word so more people can access and read it on my blog:

http://photoshoplightroombridge.co.uk

Thanks once again!

Marek

A good while back, I got burned buying (a well made Chinese counterfeit) Photoshop CS3 on eBay. Once I realized it was bogus, I ditched it and wiped my drive for fear it was infested with malware.
Never again.

What I’d like to see is Adobe monitor auctions (it would only take 1 person an hour a day to do searches and flag/report auctions). Or perhaps even better, put legal pressure on eBay/Craigs etc to either ban software auctions entirely or adopt policies and procedures to verify any software sold via their service.
Legit auctions and sales of second hand software are very few and far between, so it would be no great loss if software auctions were banned.

    We do try to monitor auctions and 3rd party resellers as best we can. As you can imagine, it’s a huge task.

i had used the pirated version of photoshop long back in version 5. then i bought the student version of photoshop 5. then after i have been upgrading since cs1 to cs3 and now cs5 all of which are professional versions. i have seen the comments posted here above. my personal experience with the pirated versions then was pretty much better than the original versions. the original version in india were very costly then. even now i hear that the pirated version of cs5 is available for about $50 dollars. i also hear that they work pretty well. considering the support part of it from adobe, my personal experience with adobe support has sucked to the core with the support people giving useless suggestions for any doubts or clarifications that i may have asked. so i no more use their support system, and would rather ask my friends or other people in forums about my doubts. i am using the original versions now but my pricing to the client would differ from a guy who has pirated software and the client would not bother about what software we use as long as the work is done at his affordable price. because of this i have lost out on many clients. so i dont understand this harping about buying original software when the support system is not properly built atleast as far as i can see it from india. i cant buy the software online where it is cheaper because some strange rule in adobe india says i have to buy from the reseller only, who sells the software much higher than the original price and we have to bargain with 10 different vendors before we can get a decent price which is still above the market price sold in online stores across the world. could somebody clarify on the points that i have raised and explain how they would justify the high prices and lack of security in their softwares which gives people the oppurtunity to make pirated versions.

I just wanna say, it’s so cool software….

Adobe software is powerful and professional… but… it is out of the reach of the Home User. Saying that PS Elements is all the Home User needs is like saying all a kitchen needs is a microwave. You know full well that even Home Users want a stove! PS is way more powerful and supported by books and Websites than PSE, also it is nice to have all the tools you need for a hobby.

The Home User may desperately want to learn and use PS but the price is just not justifiable to the majority. Adobe never give away free old copies on magazines so people can get the chance to buy the upgrade version.

If Adobe did a Home Licence version of PhotoShop Extended (like the student one) for around about £100 RRP (so less at many stores) then they would make a fortune in extra money.

Take my example: I am in my 40′s married with no kids and disabled/retired. I can’t save up the cost of Photo shop as it is not justifiable. I can’t get the Student version as I am not at school and have no kids. So I am left with only the option of buying lower quality products instead. I can’t recommend PS to other people who do work and are in the business as I’ve never used it.

Now AutoDesk let me sign up to their student/unemployed scheme (with proof of disability) and download all their Software for free, so why don’t Adobe start a scheme like this?

Some people argue that Adobe don’t mind home hobbiests pirating PS but why should we have to take the risk? Why make us feel guilty? Why alienate so many users?

Come on Adobe have a heart…

Jeff–

I really don’t want to use pirated software. In fact I WILL NOT use pirated software, but, as a small business owner, I want to get the best price I can on a copy of Photoshop CS5. The moderate discounts that you refer to on eBay and Amazon Marketplace are significant. Adobe.com is charging roughly $700, with Amazon.com charging between $600-$660 (the price fluctuates). Amazon marketplace and eBay have sellers selling for as low as $500-$550. That is a significant price drop. What I am asking, I guess, is if I buy from eBay or Amazon Marketplace and I am able to register the serial number with Adobe, am I assured that I have the real McCoy? How would a genuine Adobe product end up in the hands of a non-authorized reseller? Theft? If the serial number checks out, does that mean that I have a real Adobe product that was not pirated and was honestly sold/not stolen?

I have to complain that the reseller list that you linked is no help to me, as Amazon.com and Best Buy, who I know to be authorized resellers, are not even on the list!

Jeff, you make some valid points, but I take issues with your use of the word “counterfeit” in describing unlicensed. The word “counterfeit” implies the software itself is somehow different from, and inferior to, the same software purchased from Adobe, which is simply not true. The software is exactly, only the license differs.

It’s difficult to look at the battle over software piracy without drawing some comparisons to the war on drugs; both are equally futile, decades-long struggles that show no signs of abating. Much like the government and some industry lobbyists, there has and continues to be far too much focus on eradicating the symptoms of software piracy, and a disgraceful lack of self-analysis to ascertain what it is that drives people to use unlicensed software.

The high cost to license software and the punitive licensing practices of major software developers are what drive many casual users, and some professionals, to seek out unlicensed. I find it hard to believe that Adobe can offer the same programs to students at an 80% discount that it offers to professionals at far higher prices; the cost of upgrading a Creative Suite license for a professional (i.e. anyone who uses Adobe software for non-academic purposes) is on par with the cost of buying a new computer. We as customers are told this price is reflective of the cost to research and develop that software, how true is that? What competitive alternatives are there to Photoshop or Illustrator? How much of that $2,000+ Master Collection license is for R&D, and how much of it is a reflection of the 20+ year industry monopoly Adobe has enjoyed?

Is Adobe software original in this webstore ?
http://www.downloads-store.net/

I think counterfeit is used for software which is sold as if it were a fully licensed version, and the seller has gone through some effort to make purchasers think they are getting the genuine and fully licensed product. This is distinct from pirated software where the user knows they are obtaining an unlicensed product. With a counterfeit product, a well-meaning purchaser might end up paying hundreds of dollars intending on a fully licensed product, but not get it.

In either case, the software may be identical to the official Adobe release, or it may have been modified (intentionally or not) to include malware.

People pirate PhotoShop because it so well supported in terms of books, magazines and tutorials. It is THE standard for photo editing, after all we don’t say ‘Why don’t we Gimp his head on a donkey?”.

Many people want to be able to use it but it is priced way out of the range of probably 90% of home users/students. Most people who pirate it will never sell anything they make with it, so buying it would see no return on the investment.

The whole rental thing is a farce as if you bought your software you’d use it for a few years not just the year that the rental price costs. Also the price is still to high for most home users.

Most people who criticize people pirating software are artists, journalists and tech experts with high paying jobs (even if they appreciate that they are well off compared to most).

Here in the UK, the average home user isn’t going to spend more than £100 on a software package. By average I’m talking non-commercial, hobbiest users NOT artists, designers, etc. People who want to use the best and can’t understand why they are shut out by ridiculous pricing.

Some price ideas for the UK:

Students/disabled/long term unemployed: £0 – Just like Autodesk, Maxon and REAL Software

Home User, single licence, non-commercial: £89.99

Home User, single licence, commercial: £189.99

The corporate pricing as it stands is fine…

I know the thread is quite old and relates to Photoshop but I may have purchased an illegal copy of Illustrator CS6 and I wanted to write about it. It is possible that the sales company that I used purchased a volume licence and is selling the serial number to customers like me. I can’t register the product because the serial number is a volume licence.

I don’t think there is ever justification in using pirated software.

The product is much more expensive in Europe which seems rather unfair and it made me shop around. So that’s my excuse! I was all ready to pay $599 on Adobe.com but I was re-directed to the European site.

Maybe the copy that I’ve purchased is legit but, bearing in mind my rather rigid view about illegal copying, I wanted to be sure.

    I’ve asked someone in our European support office to get in touch with you.

So us disabled life long unemployable users are not eligible for even an Education price let a lone free? What a disappointment. A lot of family and friends ask me to recommend software to them, I will be sure to recommend any NON Adobe software to them from now on.

Another heartless company only interested in it’s bottom line… Well that’s where I make sure they suffer for be so uncaring… Way to loose sales Adobe…

I am so frustrated I just had to post. I got a new PC and tried to install my previously registered Photoshop CS4 Extended on it when it said the SN was invalid. I had been running PS CS4 successively for 4 years on the old PC. Well, I forgot to deactivate it on my old PC and so the hell began. It ended with Adobe Support Portal saying it was a counterfeit or pirated version all along. The thing is, the packaging, DVDs and ALL printing and fine print is the real thing. I have compared it. I sent packaging photos to them but since it was purchased on eBAy they said sorry and that was it! I am out hundreds on dollars and no PS.

    Hi Larry,

    Yes. eBay isn’t a safe place to buy software because you are buying from individuals – not an authorized reseller. The only safe way to buy software from ebay is to make sure the seller transfers a registered license to you (meaning the user you are buying from contacts Adobe, registers the product, and files some forms with you to transfer the license). http://helpx.adobe.com/x-productkb/policy-pricing/transfer-product-license.html

    If someone is selling ‘sealed’ software for cheap, you can pretty much bet it’s counterfeit software (usually a well packaged counterfeit from China) that’s been hacked to modify your system to make the software appear activated (Note: Activated is not the same as registered). When you install on a modern OS, these hacks no longer work, and the serial doesn’t validate.

There’s a group of several eBay users selling what they call CLP Master Collection licenses at eBay… they are very well organized.
They even offer the MC including the CS7 update. Are these guys allowed to do this?

http://www.ebay.com/itm/ADOBE-CS6-MASTER-COLLECTION-FULL-VERSION-PREPAID-UPGRADE-LICENSE-NEW-/271200627278

ebay users: hpwiden692, 4dhdfxsa, etc.

    Pat,

    Transferring CLP licenses to another user is an allowable practice via Adobe, although it is not ‘preferred purchase’ by official Adobe reps. There have been a few other eBayers which have been selling through the same method with great results, just usually justified for a higher price range. Normally people who are selling pirated software stack up the negatives quite fast. Fortunately, that does not seem to be the case here with either of those eBay IDs.

Unfortunately Amazon is terrible for fake software. There are hundreds of people complaining to Amazon about fake software but Amazon continue to sell the counterfeit products without a care for anyone

The company I am working for is has used our it guy to install one software/key on two computer. It is so not right and ethical as our company is in licensee business and we know how piracy hurts out business, but our Hk manager thinks otherwise.

I can no longer sit back and allow this to happens. What, how and to who can I report this too???

Regards

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