The New Adobe Acrobat DC Pro Is Out! Download the Free Trial Now
Home > Tips January 7th, 2015

Why Not to Buy Adobe Software on eBay, Craigslist or Amazon Mkt

Some folks think it might be a good idea to try to save a few bucks and buy Adobe software off of eBay, Craigslist, Amazon Marketplace, or from any vendor who is unfamiliar.  It could be CS6, Photoshop, Lightroom, Acrobat, Elements, or any other item – in a retail, student, full or upgrade version… or sometimes it’s the “OEM” scam, or the “extra” volume/enterprise license swindle.

But it’s actually not a very good idea at all.  Why?

Why You Should Never Buy Adobe Software on eBay, Craigslist, or Amazon Marketplace

The first problem is that Adobe does not recognize these venues as valid or authorized resellers, they are fully disregarded.  So as a result, Adobe will not officially recognize any of those buyers as actually owning their software. Yes, you read that right.

Meaning, you think you own the genuine article but effectively you don’t. You can’t provide an accepted proof of purchase – so you can’t formally prove you own the products, can’t ever legally transfer the software to someone else, may not be able to get product support or upgrade to the next version, and so on…  You also aren’t able to return the software to get your money back from Adobe like you normally can.

Why doesn’t Adobe recognize the people that go through those places? Doesn’t that seem unfair? Can’t these software vendors who you’ve never heard of be trusted?

No, because in this area, reputation matters… a lot.  The simple reason is – and the real problem is – that 90% of the software sold on places like eBay is counterfeit! Yes, it’s true. And it’s not a new problem.

Adobe states, “Purchasing from known and trusted sources is the best way to avoid risks. Avoid all online auction sites — they’re rife with counterfeiters. The only safe way to purchase genuine software for download is through the Adobe Store.”

So you can be pretty sure that what someone’s getting on those auction and vendor sites is not legitimate, not able to be legally transferred, and possibly even quite unsafe.

Fake or Hacked Software –> Unsafe Computer, Loss of Money, Stolen Information, or Worse

That last part is the real kicker. A great deal of the hacked and pirated Adobe software out there now is embedded with malware. These infections include viruses, worms, and trojans that can do significant harm to your computer, personal data, and privacy (like quietly stealing your sensitive information such as logins, passwords, and credit card numbers). Or increasingly, hold your entire hard disk for ransom with no fix available.

Or put another way, you dramatically “increase your risk of exposure to viruses, spyware, or adware that can destroy (or, worse, publish to criminals) valuable data.”  But unfortunately, many people don’t learn about this until it’s too late.  Often they do this unknowingly – and are essentially paying someone to do it to them by buying the unauthorized software.

How prevalent is malware in illegal software? Well, just one example: China reportedly has a piracy rate of 79% – and a corresponding computer infection rate of nearly 70% – both are the highest in the world.

Yes, there can occasionally be exceptions – but there are many more headlines over the years: “Adobe Creative Suite Crack Harvests Zombie Computers”“Malware Writers Target Would-Be Pirated Software Users”“Rogue Adobe Product Downloads Infect Machines with Undetected Keylogger”“Bootlegged Mac Photoshop Delivers New Trojan Horses”

The second Trojan was discovered Sunday, hidden inside torrented copies of Adobe Systems’ Photoshop program. Once installed, the software silently lets someone else take remote control of the computer and the sensitive data upon it.

The risk seems obvious for older or used/secondhand copies, right?  But even advertised “new in box” (NIB) items in seemingly original packaging can easily be fake (see what the FBI says about this here) – and it’s often very difficult to tell the difference from the outside of the packaging, or even from the inside.  As Adobe says, “… it can come with sophisticated-looking cases, manuals, and even registration cards. You’ll only discover software is pirated when you try to register it and can’t, often rendering the software unusable.” Or worse.

But even if the software within is authentic, it’s still breaking the law. Per the SIIA, “As this prosecution demonstrates, it is both a crime to create counterfeit software and a crime to sell authentic software without authorization.”  So in any event, these buyers still face all the other issues above.

And if anyone ever offers a download or serial number that’s coming from anywhere else other than Adobe – it’s definitely not genuine, or legal.

The old advice applies here: anything that sounds too good to be true probably is, in pricing or otherwise… (note that Adobe’s true Student & Teacher Editions at up to 70% off including the $19 complete Creative Cloud are exceptions to this)

So what’s your best bet?

Ensure your Adobe software is genuine

The only safe and legal place to instantly download any of these products (either trial or full versions) is directly from Adobe’s servers.

And only safe and legal place to buy any boxed retail software is directly from Adobe itself, or through their officially authorized resellers or retailers.

They put all this in place to protect customers – not only from harmful or counterfeit software, but also protecting your rights as a legitimate buyer and recognized licensee of the products – fully able to receive customer service, technical support, important updates, and future upgrades.

See all the recommended tips on how to avoid Adobe piracy. And if the regular product prices are out of reach for you, see if you qualify for Adobe’s deeply-discounted education versions, or check out their affordable Creative Cloud offering including the successor to CS6 — the new CC 2014 release — which is guaranteed to be the genuine article.


See Also

Download New Adobe CC 2014 Free Trials (Direct Links)

Keep up with the latest on Adobe software — subscribe to our RSS feed or follow us on Twitter or Facebook… You can also enter your email and have new articles sent directly to your inbox.
Categories: Tips Tags: ,

Share This

Email this page
Available Worldwide! Get New Adobe Photoshop CC 2014 plus Lightroom 5 Desktop and Mobile for Just US$9.99 a Month
  1. Fred Garvin

    Yikes! What a nightmare! Just stumbled across this article… I thought Microsoft’s licensing model was punitive!

  2. Emily Dicson

    It is not easy to Get a Full Version with Registered Licensed Software for a common man, because Many developer companies like; Adobe, Microsoft & Corel did not provide their software’s old version after launching a new version, So I solved this problem with getting their product licensed activation genuine keys from:
    « link removed »

  3. Bob MacLaren

    I bought a genuine unused copy of CS6 in Oct 2012 via eBay, I was indeed careful as the price although high was well below new retail. I checked with Adobe before purchase. They advised caution but would verify the Key if purchased.

    I bought via PayPal and checked within the 45 day refund period. Adobe confirmed all OK and I was free to install and use and even gave advice. I registered the product and received monthly software updates and other tutorial invites.

    Thirteen months after installation whilst updating the “update” deleted all CS6 on my PC and linked me to the Cloud version (ie pay monthly). I contacted Adobe who advised that the product was stolen and the original purchaser now wished to use it.

    Fair enough but Adobe then deleted all reference on their registration details that I had ever registered or used CS6.

    This Adobe action prevented me giving full advice and confirmation of delay in ascertaining it was stolen to the Police or Fraud Action. As the purchase was well over 45 days PayPal could only confirm but not refund the cost of purchase.

    My view is that along with the thief, Adobe have aided and abetted in my total loss. Do not trust Adobe.

    • Hi Bob, thanks for sharing your story and sorry for your loss… This is yet another cautionary tale for why never to buy “genuine” Adobe software off of eBay. It’s not the first time we’ve heard of a case where Adobe later discovered that a license key was not valid for sale. The scammers are very clever and what likely happened is the original purchaser was a retail buyer who later registered or filed a complaint that their serial number was no longer working, and their rightful claim to ownership of the license predated yours. In a digital world everything is simply copied (or fabricated) and easily resold – including duplicate, bogus, or redundant serial numbers – and that is why you simply cannot put money or trust in unauthorized, unregulated vendors such as anyone on eBay, Craigslist, Amazon Marketplace, and the like.

      The moral to take away is once again (and as Adobe clearly states): do not ever try to buy from these places!

    • Just a follow-up, the notion to “not trust Adobe” makes no sense as they had nothing to do with the sham sale, and made nothing on it… And it’s unreasonable to expect them to nevertheless honor false serial numbers from the black market.

      As we mentioned in the previous comment, other eBay buyers have reported similar experiences here. One poster writes:

      Adobe has been known to blacklist serial numbers if they found they were fraudulent, whenever that is discovered. One way is that the counterfeiter might have handed out the same number to more than one customer. It sounds like Adobe blacklisted the serial number in between when you installed it on the first PC and now when you’re installing it on a new PC, so while it worked the first time, it doesn’t now.

      Unfortunately, professional software pirates flood the market with thousands and thousands of genuine-looking packages, which only trained people can recognize as forgeries. That’s why there are loads of sellers on eBay and similar sites who may not even know they are selling forgeries. They themselves fell victim to someone selling pirated versions in large quantities at dumping prices.

      Finally, as we state clearly in the article above: Any unauthorized purchase will not receive support from Adobe, period – it’s considered invalid.  Why would anyone pay out their hard-earned money knowing that support will never be provided, and that the license could be found fraudulent at any time?

      Here is Adobe’s response:

      “Ebay is not an Adobe authorized reseller and Adobe does not support eBay products. In this case, I request you to contact the place of purchase for the further assistance. We advise you purchase the software directly from Adobe or from an authorized reseller.

      I’m unable to decode this serial number on our server. In other words our system is unable to link or recognize the serial number that you have provided to any Adobe product. Not sure how you were able to use the serial number. But since the serial number is invalid, we will not be able to assist you in the matter so I request you to contact the seller since it was purchased from them.”

  4. Kitt

    Not sure if he meant unopened box when he indicated unused license. Unopened boxes are the only source I trust. Hasn’t steered me wrong yet, and if I do eventually hit a block, I will have saved too much money and it won’t matter. Although things get fuzzy with licenses, first sale doctrine, a US law protects you from legal recourse from Adobe (so you won’t be breaking the law, with an unopened box). I just hope Adobe had sufficient evidence before pulling the plug, companies go through some disparate lengths at times to defeat the second market.

    • No, we strongly disagree – no matter how you slice it, it’s overall not a good idea – and not worth the risk to try to save a few bucks. There are plenty of fakes in unopened boxes that your eyes cannot spot. And even if you think a transaction is “good,” Adobe is not obliged to provide any service or support. As demonstrated in Bob’s example (and many others), you could easily lose your presumed license even months later.

      And because it’s coming from an unknown source, you also risk malware and trojans installing onto your personal computer and robbing or destroying your sensitive data before you can even blink… It’s simply not a smart move.

  5. Harper

    @ProDesignTools

    I just had a serial key invalidated like Bob. A few months ago I bought a copy of CS6 off of EBAY. I maybe should have suspected something because the price was low but I was a little short of cash at the time. However the seller’s ratings seemed ok and the product looked real. The software installed on my computer fine and worked perfectly since the summer. But when I re-logged in a couple weeks back it said the license code was invalid. I got in touch with Adobe and they said the same thing and EBAY was not an authorized vendor and that I needed to deal with them. So I tried to email the seller several times but he was long gone and did not reply to any of my messages. I contacted EBAY and they confirmed it was a scam operation reported to them and that since it was past the 30 days time limit for their buyer money back guarantee, they could not help me. So now I got totally scammed, I can do nothing, have nothing, and lost all my money!! It is wrong this kind of thing can happen.

    • Greetings Harper, very sorry to hear that and we agree that this kind of thing shouldn’t happen but unfortunately eBay continues to provide the venue for it to take place… As we have said above, Adobe disavows all such transactions and strongly counsels against it. But there is a thriving market in counterfeits none­the­less because software is relatively easy and lucrative to copy, and there are willing (but unfortunate) buyers. Bottom line, anything that sounds too good to be true, probably is!

      What we can recommend in the future if you can’t afford to pay the full/standard price for authentic Adobe software is to see if you can qualify for their Student & Teacher Editions instead, which typically have big discounts… Sometimes just taking a part-time class at your local school can easily pay for itself – see the details in our guide here:

      How to Save 70% with Adobe CC / CS6 Student & Teacher Editions

      Thanks for your comment and wish there were more we could do!

  6. Kitt

    The problem is, I’m not applying this to Adobe only. I have saved far more then a few bucks. Even if Adobe decided to pull one of my keys. I would simply make another purchase, I have saved thousands of dollars. I have had multiple companies making the same claim, that everything anywhere else but here is stolen. I have heard PC vendors tell me that, CISCO tell me that, etc. I have heard this mantra everywhere, yes their are stolen products out there and there is a dumb way to purchase this stuff, I.E. $10 copy for the key only. There is a smart way to do it as well, unopened boxes with original packaging. I realize this may not align with the ideology of this article. Bob also never indicated whether or not his was an unopened box or not, only that it was “unused”. You can find “Unused” keys out there as well, I do not buy these.

    • Well, your attitude seems to be, “I’ve gotten lucky playing Russian Roulette so far, so guess it’s working for me.” But in terms of the potential for latent malware or devastating ransomware, all it takes is one quick shot to steal your personal data or lose your entire hard disk.

      Most people do not have the capacity or desire to readily forsake their financial investment, their software license, or their computer’s security – and often only experts are truly able to tell which packaging is genuine vs. counterfeit, unopened or not.

      According to a recent IDC study:

      IDC estimates that one third of PC software in the world is counterfeit. Because of the link between counterfeit software and IT security issues from malware, this poses a real danger for consumers, enterprises, and nations.

      Given current demonstrated infection rates, if you use pirated software (either deliberately or inadvertently), chances are 1 in 3 that in the process of obtaining or using pirated software you will encounter dangerous malware.

      As a result of malware from counterfeit software, IDC estimates that consumers worldwide will waste 1.5 billion hours this year dealing with it. However, it is not just lost time and money to fix the problem, but also the risk of lost data and identity theft.

  7. Bob MacLaren

    @ProDesignTools

    Whilst I agree that my purchasing an apparently unwanted CS6 Master Collection via eBay was at best risky and any software purchases this way should not to be repeated by anyone, I must add a few comments.

    1. I only ever installed on one PC.
    2. Adobe still deleted any reference to my registering and using CS6 so killed my evidence of usage. (It is now too late for the police to pursue the seller.)
    3. Despite Adobe’s claim of unable to recognise the serial number, Adobe DID originally confirm the provided serial number as valid and should have recognised it was owned by another or queried how I had it. See online chat below.

    Extract from October 2012 conversation with Adobe:-

    Umang: Thank you for contacting Adobe chat support. My name is Umang, I have received your query. Please allow me a moment to review the details of your request.
    Umang: May I please have your e-mail id and full name registered with Adobe?
    robert: "email addr provided"
    robert: Robert MacLaren
    Umang: Thanks for the information. Please allow me a moment while I locate your account.
    Umang: Could you please help me with the serial number of your product?
    robert: ***5-***8-***8-****0-***6 (Full Number provided)
    Umang: Thanks for the information. Please allow me a moment.
    Umang: Yes. It is okay. You can use this serial number. As it is decoding on my system
    robert: Great, Thank you.
    robert: Do I now cancel the Case ?
    Umang: You are most welcome.
    Umang: one moment please.
    Umang: Please close this case now.

    The case was closed and as I say 13 months later Adobe deleted it from my PC without any contact or explanation until I contacted on-line support.

    For that reason I still say do not buy software via the internet unless with a known and approved vendor, and do not expect honest support or interaction with Adobe or probably any other provider if an ownership problem occurs.

    • Hello again Bob, thanks for the additional details. As mentioned in the comments above, there are different possible explanations as to why Adobe could not immediately flag that serial number as invalid when you “purchased” it, but could only do so later… Here are a few common schemes used by the con artists:

      1. Your license key was a copy or duplicate of another (retail channel) serial number that was originally valid but multiple people had not yet made claim to it.

      2. Or it was a serial number that was later determined to be stolen, pirated, or keygenned.

      3. Or it was an “extra” seat from a discounted volume license contract that was attempted to be invalidly and illegally sold off.

      4. Another common swindle is that the code you got was part of a valid term-based licensing agreement that the con artist naturally did not renew once it expired after some time.

      Dov Isaacs from Adobe shares more insights into these hoaxes:

      I am very sorry to hear of your experiences both with your unsuccessful attempt to update your software and the difficulty you have experienced trying to get a straight answer as to what the problem is. I do understand your being angry, upset, frustrated, and disappointed.

      Based upon your multiple references to “eBay or the reseller” I will assume for the time being that you bought your copy of Acrobat from a reseller offering the product via eBay. Over the years, regrettably, eBay has been the source of a tremendous amount of pirated software not only of Adobe, but also Microsoft, Corel, AutoDesk, etc. products as well. By “pirated,” I include a number of scams. These include simply doing an amateur DVD copy and providing a serial number that already had been used by others. In some cases, “cracked” software is offered. In more sophisticated scams, the reseller obtains a serial number for an enterprise license designed for use only within a company and attempts to “unbundle” that enterprise license by selling media and that serial number to persons who are not authorized to use it (i.e., they aren’t part of the organization to which the license was sold for in-organization use). If Adobe detects that such serial numbers are being activated where not expected, that could lead Adobe to invalidating the serial number, possibly after you have successfully installed and activated the software.

      Other such enterprise licenses may be part of a TLA, a “term licensing agreement” for which the original license and the serial number expires after a pre-defined term if the license isn’t extended by the enterprise originally purchasing the license. Clearly, a scammer who obtains (possibly stealing) such a TLA-based serial number is not going to renew such a licensing agreement with Adobe. And if you used a TLA-based serial number, when it expires, you can expect that the software will not update (or possibly even work) beyond that expiration date.

      Another possibility is resale of stolen software; a software vendor is perfectly within its prerogative to invalidate serial numbers and activations for copies of software packages that were physically stolen from the authorized retail channel.

      In the past, most pirated software offered on eBay (and similar venues) was clearly suspicious in terms of packaging or lack thereof. In recent years though, clever scammers go to great lengths to counterfeit the packaging and media such that it looks genuine. They offer a price that isn’t “too good to be true” such that it is obvious that something isn’t kosher with the goods. For example, Acrobat XI Pro is currently offered on Adobe’s website for US$449. There are “sellers” on eBay currently offering what purports to be Acrobat XI Pro for US$399, a reasonable discount that would not readily raise your suspicions. However, since neither eBay nor the majority of these resellers are authorized resellers of Adobe products, you really have no way of knowing what is actually inside what looks like genuine packaging.

      (Also note that a number of eBay resellers are explicitly offering educational versions of Adobe software without disclosing that in order to actually use the software – if it even was genuine – that the purchaser must provide Adobe with current credentials proving eligibility to use an educational version of the software!)

      Thus, licensing software from any source that is not an authorized reseller is at best a dicey proposition! Note that Adobe does not invalidate serial numbers simply on the basis of resale by unauthorized resellers – but, buyer beware!

      Adobe’s customer support agents will not give specific reasons for why a serial number is cancelled. First of all, such agents and their management do not themselves have that information. More importantly, providing such information in general would or could assist software pirates in perfecting workarounds to the system.

      I don’t know what else you expect that Adobe can or should do for you. If you buy what is purported to be (and indeed looks like) a genuine Rolex watch at a big discount from some guy on a street corner, do you expect Rolex to replace the watch or refund what you paid for it if it falls apart within the first day you have it? I don’t think so. This is a similar situation. eBay is absolutely not, by reputation, a trusted venue for software licensing.

      I wish you the best of luck in trying to get satisfaction out of eBay and again, I am very sorry about the situation you found yourself in.
      _____

      For more details and suggestions on these rackets, read Dov Isaacs’ complete post here.

  8. Bob MacLaren

    @ProDesignTools

    Just a small point for Dov Isaacs. A Rolex watch if not a fake is still a Rolex watch.
    Also, in addition to mine and others advice to always buy from reliable sources, the key point I make is that because of Adobe’s policy and approach to erring customers’ is that by deleting all reference to having registered the subsequently-terminated key that I could not recover any loss, even though I knew the seller’s name and PayPal would confirm the purchase, because I had no support (ie proof of mis-selling) from Adobe.

    Too late now for me but the warning is clear for others; don’t expect Adobe to support you in any way in these situations.

    • Well, the proof of the scam is that Adobe says the serial number is invalid, no matter when it was purchased or when that was discovered… So for anyone or any entity who needs evidence of the fake, you need only forward to them that determination from Adobe. But unfortunately it’s long after eBay could do anything about it or issue any refund, and it’s likely the fraudster vendor has vanished as well.

      But thank you very much for sharing your story, thoughts and comments here, Bob – and wishing you a better new year in terms of software!

  9. NewsView

    The legality of selling the software without permission from the trademark holder pertained to a case out of Germany. In the U.S. there is a “first sale” doctrine. It’s the same reason that trademark holders can’t stop you from reselling their products at a yard sale or online after you’ve lawfully purchased them, whereas stealing the same items and attempting to resale them would get you thrown in the slammer. You can’t claim something is authentic that isn’t, and you can’t claim a license is free to use if it isn’t (still in use) but if you’re an artist and you make use of a trademark-inspired theme in satire (or the like) sufficient to be substantially different (meaning not possible to confuse) with the original, you are also protected (First Amendment!).

    As of this writing, Adobe literally disconnects your phone call if you call their toll free customer support line to choose the option for non-cloud products. Based on a support document on Adobe’s website I tried to call to verify a licensing issue and Adobe hung up on me because it concerned an older product. I even went so far as to choose the wrong option (CC customer support) to get a live person on the line and they still chided me for wasting their time. I had spent well over an hour on the phone trying to do the right thing after a software purchase of a physical disc consisting of a legacy product and they hung up on me repeatedly for my efforts to find a menu option that would not be invalid for my issue, and result in an abrupt hang-up!

    Adobe wants users to convert to the Creative Cloud and those users, in turn, are likely as the years pass to offload their old (but legitimate) software on Ebay or the like. I see nothing illegal about that unless it was counterfeit to begin with. The risk with reselling legitimately purchased software on the second hand market isn’t so much a legal one as it is a potential means of defrauding unsuspecting buyers (on the point about the dangers of fraud and malicious software, I agree). As to the legality of reselling defunct or unwanted software? Please don’t overstate the case. Licensing fraud is one thing but trademark infringement (as some of the outbound links referred to) is another issue entirely. Please don’t mix apples and oranges, especially in view of the fact that your readers hail from all over the world and laws and practices may vary accordingly.

  10. NewsView

    Re: Bob

    I feel it is suspect that Adobe customer service agents can verify a serial number to a certain level or degree within minutes of picking up a call (using their computers!), the website product registration verifies to another level (when manually inputting a serial under “add a product”) and the software installation that transmits the serial key to Adobe uses another seemingly less effective database entirely.

    The weakest link in the licensing chain, according to “Dov Isaac”, is the software validation! There’s no reason that check ought to falsely succeed, as others have reported, only for the license to be yanked later. Acting as if all these other means and methods can be done in a timely way but the online activation during installation is a horse & buggy smacks of a smokescreen. We must consider the possibility, however improbable, that Adobe benefits when they scare disaffected legacy software users who have lost access to perpetual license software into abandoning “risky” physical software packages (and perpetual licenses in general) in favor of the Creative Cloud.

    It begs the question: Why isn’t the best and most comprehensive licensing database, the one that can get it right the first time the user attempts to install a product, NOT the one in use during installation? With few exceptions — notably exceeding the number of lawful installations or “seats” using a single serial number — there’s no excuse for a license that validated initially to FAIL months or even years after the fact. It stretches credibility, after all, to claim that someone had a prior claim on a single-use license. If they did, no doubt they would have installed it first — because they obtained the software earlier than you did — and your subsequent installation SHOULD have failed from the outset (i.e. too many copies in use).

    To have a serial key accepted initially and fail later implies that the Adobe licensing servers still can’t make basic assessments about the nature of a license (volume license, individual license, number of duplicates in use, etc.). Moreover, I don’t see HOW a keygen could be successful nowadays with online activation built into the verification routine. I can see cracked software making an end-run around the licensing check by disabling it altogether but I can’t see how a keygen serial, in and of itself, can even work with software products, like Adobe, that utilize online verification processes. In fact, I’d like the Adobe employee quoted above to clarify why keygens serials are only discovered after the fact? Mr. Isaac’s statement implies that the licensing authentication process isn’t really automated at all, and that Adobe has scores of gerbils employed behind the scenes just for the purpose of reconciling serial numbers to product holders (Adobe IDs)! Ya, think?

    If the chat/phone reps at Adobe can say within a matter of minutes if a software key is legit, this idea that the installer can be fooled by a fake serial key — or even allow for too many duplicate single-user licenses to go into effect — does NOT add up. I would be more inclined to suspect that most of the “Adobe rejects” who are left holding Adobe-deactivated software did start off with a genuine license, but they committed the Capital Crime of purchasing it from an unauthorized source, only to mistakenly bring that to Adobe’s attention in a subsequent support call (for which a case number was assigned). In this digital, Internet-connected era, if Adobe wanted to reject invalid or over-used serial numbers instantaneously, they could with the proper Internet-connected database. But not flagging an activated software product until weeks, months or even years down the line adds to user frustration. By inference, Adobe is is banking on user frustration with serialization grants (and rude awakenings) to sell more Creative Cloud subscriptions.

    Look, I don’t support pirated software. I think it’s wrong. But it borders on a “bait & switch” to allow someone to activate software during installation, only to imply that it took scores of gerbils to peer over reams of flow charts after the fact in order to “discover” the error. In the traditional consumer retail world, if I buy a Sony TV from a non-authorized source, I forfeit the warranty but I haven’t done anything illegal. If the same were true of Adobe, I’d forfeit product support but I wouldn’t find my item “repossessed”. Second and more importantly, everything is automated. If Adobe can figure out that a license is invalid at all, they should be able to do so within a reasonable degree of time whether it is by phone or via the Internet-facilitated installation process. For Adobe to admit, in essence, that they are unable to validate a license cleanly and efficiently suggests that Adobe has left the door open to consumers routinely “burned” by enabling access to questionable products beyond the timeframe consumers can reasonably expect to get their money back (30 for Ebay, 90 for a credit card). Perhaps Adobe’s lawyers have taken a calculated risk: Anybody that’s looking for discounted (or discontinued!) Adobe software is in no financial position to argue. The sad fact of corporate America today is that many large-scale industries find it cheaper to risk a fine or a “slap on the wrist” than comply with certain consumer protection laws or regulations. Oftentimes until there is a discovery action the facts remain hidden from the public for years on end. Nobody can say for certain if that’s what’s going on here — but it can’t be ruled out, either.

  11. NewsView

    Let me add a clarification. Let’s say a retailer gets hacked. Everybody who pays for their merchandise leaves the store with receipt in hand, having made no malicious or intentional effort to defraud the retailer, but because of forces outside their direct knowledge or control the payments are refunded, to the amusement of the hackers. The fraud is discovered after the customers have gone home. Are the customers, one by one, called back to pay for their goods or does the store take a loss — for which they are insured— because hackers thought it would be good for laughs. I would apply the same analogy here. Unless Adobe can prove that a user willfully defeated their licensing requirements — as opposed to their registered user having themselves been a victim of a fraud — repossessing software that has successfully installed on their computers AFTER more than 90 days have past ought not be possible for the same reason a grocer can’t say “Oops. I can’t find record of your payment last week. Can you pay me for those groceries again?”

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, but to put it plainly: Adobe is simply not invalidating any serial numbers for the sole reason that they came off of eBay. Period, end of story. So this is just conspiracy theory talk… We won’t lend those comments any further weight than that.

      We have explained in depth above some of the different scenarios that could cause a serial number to be invalidated significantly later than its purchase date from a grey market. A very common ploy is splitting and selling off keys from a term-based (e.g., 1-year validity) licensing agreement. Everything checks out and looks fine for a while, the software installs and runs fine, and then «poof» the license expires some months later and you’re left holding the bag. Meanwhile the crook has also disappeared with your money and you’re well past the time for any hope of a return or refund.

      Read it again in the comments above if you missed it; it’s an easy con for scammers. So sorry, but you’re off base about that.

      Your other notion of “too many machines” doesn’t work either because most Adobe software can be activated on up to two computers – and an original unregistered purchaser often only installs and uses one of those activations at the outset.

      Further, even if some software purchased on those shadowy venues did happen to be legitimate, there is significant disagreement over whether it is subject to the “first sale” doctrine in any event because Adobe software is clearly licensed from the author and not sold outright.

      Finally, we’ve been dealing with Adobe for over 8 years and have worked through very many questions and issues on behalf readers of this blog. We certainly have gotten the occasional “underinformed” customer service rep, but we have never once had a single incident of disconnecting or rudeness, no matter what the product or version.

  12. Barrie

    A while back, I got burned buying (a well-made Chinese counterfeit of) Photoshop on eBay. Once I realized it was bogus, I ditched it and wiped my drive for fear it was infested with malware.

    Never again.

    It would be helpful if Adobe could somehow monitor these things more closely. Or perhaps even better, put legal pressure on eBay/Craigslist to either ban their software auctions entirely or adopt policies and procedures to legally verify any/all Adobe software sold via their services.

    Legit auctions and sales of secondhand software are very few and far between, so it would be no great loss if software auctions were banned altogether.

    • Hi Barrie, thank you for your comment and for sharing your story… Sorry to hear you got burned and hope your computer turned out OK. Regarding what you’ve said and proposed, we completely agree. But as any popular manufacturer can tell you, trying to keep sham copies of your product off all black markets is surely a vast challenge.

  13. Bob MacLaren

    Further to thoughts on registering software whether stolen, single or multiple licence, previously used or new I would have thought that a company the size and reputation of Adobe would tie a newly-registered software installation Key to the user address when they create a registration profile for their database.
    This would logically link to single and multiple licence status as they know the keys they have produced and sold in their packages. Any subsequent Key registration would relate to the previous registration and raise a duplicate or misuse flag and suspend the software immediately . If that had happened I and others would have also been advised when we enquired as to the genuine status of the software prior to installation.

    • Adobe does do that Bob… However only a small minority of retail purchasers actually ever go through the procedure of registering their software. And if there’s no registration, then there’s no such user data.

      So while that can help sometimes (and we have heard of cases where it has), it is by no means foolproof.

  14. NewsView

    @ProDesignTools

    With all due respect, I did a page search and only reference to “too many machines” is your own. I was referring to sellers who are unscrupulous and attempt to sell off the same serial number or exceed the number of volume licenses allotted (because they’re selling them off). Another situation, which can cause a “false positive” for having exceeded the number of allowable installs, are situations where the software is improperly deactivated due to a hard drive failure or even failure on the user’s part to realize that the software can’t simply be uninstalled when it’s no longer wanted or needed but must be deactivated to free it up for legitimate installation elsewhere. If you lose too many hard drives or upgrade computers too many times without deactivating a previous copy, a two-install copy could easily flag as having been attempted on three, four or more computers and that is also where it will fail (hence the exception, because such a failure would be a legitimate reason why Adobe may appear to “deactivate” a key, when another cause entirely is responsible).

    I guess we’ll just have to differ on the point about Adobe. I’m not the first to wonder if these perpetual licenses will be around three, five or 10 years after the fact. At some point, sooner or later, those registration servers will be relocated and the online activation may have to become a key reset (or activation) by phone. I am careful to say that we have no proof that Adobe is doing anything to “kill” valid (but old) perpetual licenses, but we don’t have any proof that they’re not, either. There is no conspiracy, because conspiracy claims a predetermined conclusion. We don’t have conclusions. We have only cause to look at the matter further, and to accuse people of being guilty of passing off pirated software, “crying wolf” to Adobe — well, that’s just bad form in my book, too, just as it is bad form in yours to question Adobe’s business practices. IMHO, there ought to be a middle ground between “Adobe would definitely do it!” (revoke genuine serials) and “Adobe would NEVER do it” (and how dare you ask!).

  15. NewsView

    @Barrie

    I agree with you about implementing better checks and balances, but in the U.S. we have “innocent until proven guilty”. So on a venue like Ebay, that means we can’t legislate in such a way that would crack down on the good along with the bad. We can only deal with the bad on a case-by-case basis. I certainly have this week. I returned software after spending an hour of my time on the phone trying to speak to the wrong department at Adobe’s customer service (wrong department because any other option other than “Creative Cloud” product support, including pressing “0” for an operator, will result in your call being terminated). I spent an hour of my time verifying a serial I was able to install but not register, and I had to do so going through the wrong option on the menu or talking to a live person wasn’t even going to be offered (and I’m the conscientious sort who cared enough to make the effort). Adobe could do a lot better. There is definitely room for improvement, Barrie. Unfortunately, going after Craig’s List and Ebay gets into all sorts of complications with presumption of innocence (presuming that everything is a fraud doesn’t meet the burden of proof) and even the First Amendment. There’s no way to legislate morality into the market but we can EDUCATE, and that’s what this site is doing.

  16. Brian

    I bought a printer and it came with a copy of/license for Lightroom 5 in a sealed DVD case. I already have a Lightroom license that I paid for, so I have no need for a 2nd license. I looked on eBay and saw numerous listings for Lightroom by people who had bought printers or cameras that came with Lightroom and already had licenses. They included this information in their descriptions. So I listed my copy of Lightroom on eBay and about 4 days into my 1 week auction, it was shut down after a complaint by Adobe. They contacted me and said I was not a licensed reseller, so I could not sell the sealed copy of Lightroom. I replied with a list of current auctions for the exact same item, but did not get an explanation for why I was singled out. I still have my sealed copy of Lightroom and would like to do something with it, but I don’t seem to have many options. It does not make sense to me that I can re-sell an iPad/laptop/toaster/shirt/book etc., but I can’t resell a sealed copy of Lightroom. Why is software given this special treatment?

    • Hey there Brian, that’s part of the situation we described in the article above:

      But even if the software within is authentic, it’s still breaking the law. Per the SIIA, “As this prosecution demonstrates, it is both a crime to create counterfeit software and a crime to sell authentic software without authorization.”

      Technically, “Lightroom” is a registered trademark of Adobe and can be pulled for any reason because of that. It’s possible any other vendors trying to sell it were either skilled counterfeiters or would also eventually be shut down. But no seller on eBay or Amazon Marketplace would ever authentically be considered “valid and authorized” by Adobe, that is clear.

  17. Gary

    Does that mean that i should not buy it from Amazon directly as well?

  18. Brian

    @ProDesignTools

    The other vendors I found with listings for Adobe Lightroom that came with printers or cameras were regular sellers, not online businesses, so they were unlikely to be authorized Adobe resellers. And their auctions went to completion, so it seemed pretty inconsistent that mine was shut down while numerous others, which I listed for the Adobe person who contacted me, were not.

    Why is software treated differently than other goods?

    If I can’t sell my extra copy on eBay, can I give it away?

  19. Brian

    I posted a couple of comments about my experiences trying to sell a legitimate copy of Lightroom 5 on eBay here a couple of days ago. I got two or three responses that were helpful, but the original post and the comments have all disappeared. What happened? The links in the emails I get when comments are made don’t take me to my post.

  20. Paula

    ProDesignTools:
    Actually that’s not true @Bobby – you may not have been aware, but Adobe is still continuing to directly sell last year’s CS6 version (with the traditional perpetual licenses), if that’s what a customer prefers instead of the new CC release which came out in June.

    I did not realize that Adobe still sold CS6 directly! I thought they only sold CC. I learned the hard way not to buy from anyone you don’t know… an expensive lesson.

    But I just went to the Adobe site and still don’t see CS6 listed to purchase. Do you happen to know where I would find it? Thanks for being a great resource!

  21. Jenna

    Hi, a question. If I were to try to get the software from somewhere besides Adobe, is there any sure way to tell if something is a fake or not before buying it?

    • No Jenna – sorry. The counterfeits have become incredibly “real”-looking, even being shrink-wrapped with printed materials inside and hologram labels on the packaging, etc. A lot of it is shipped in from factories overseas.

      There’s a lot more money in bogus software now than say, knock-off watches, because the production costs are low while the prices are high. That’s why it’s everywhere now and even buyers for retail or online outlets have been fooled – there was a report recently where fake software was being sold by a legit­imate store because their wholesale buyer got “stung.”

      If the domain name of the place is registered overseas, or anonymous, then that’s another tipoff. The addresses are often just UPS Store boxes. And it’s very easy these days for a con artist to quickly build up good online reviews and seller ratings, with just a little time and effort – all those manipulations can now be inexpensively bought.

      If it’s a “cheap download” for sale, then it’s absolutely, positively a scam and not a genuine license, because as Adobe clearly states: “Pirates offer illegal software for download over the Internet in a number of ways. The only safe way to purchase Adobe® Genuine Software for download, however, is through the Adobe Store.”

      And if you buy from a non-authorized source, and/or if the software is bogus, there will be no one to back you up. As you’ve seen from some of the unfortunate tales here, the software might appear to work at first, but then fail later down the road when it’s way too late to do anything.

      So it’s buyer beware, and all important where you buy from. As independent Photoshop expert Noel Carboni says:

      The generally best way to buy Adobe products is directly from Adobe.

      Why?

      Because of some things that may seem intangible now…

      Sometime down the line, if you’ve lost the CD or have an issue with your license – e.g., you want use it on a computer that replaces one that burned out – you can call Adobe and get direct support.

      Sure, activating / registering the license ID from legitimate shrink wrap is supposed to take you there as well, but… Does it work as well as buying directly from Adobe? Time will tell.

      Are you sure you’re getting legitimate software, even if you pay a more normal price of $628? Are you sure Adobe will maintain a record of your license?

      You can be sure that software downloaded from the Adobe store with license/activation info directly from Adobe is genuine.

  22. Scott Brooke

    The whole reason people want to buy a hard copy from these unreputable sources, is to avoid the yearly blood letting. The decision to discontinue support for older versions, which one has already paid, smacks of greed. Talk about shooting oneself in the foot. To ONLY offer the cc version may satisfy the share holders, but it will likely lose you many customers. I have enjoyed Illustrator for almost 15 years, when “Streamline” was a useful conversion tool. I WILL NOT BE JOING ADOBE IN THE CLOUD! There are alternatives.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Scott – however Adobe has always discontinued support for older versions, even in the Creative Suite days… That is nothing new, after some time with any version. The world of software and technology always marches on, and you can be on that train or you can sit it out.

      But there is no way that getting scammed (like all the statistics and stories here show) is going to be a better way to go. If you truly want a hardcopy or perpetual-standalone license, then be safe and go with CS6 direct instead.

      Finally, millions of customers are happy with the new model as they adopt CC in ever-growing numbers… It’s just that they’re not as vocal as the detractors such as yourself. And paying a small amount monthly or annually (like $9.99/month for the latest releases of Photoshop + Lightroom) makes eminently more sense for many folks than historically having to come up with $1,000-$2,000 upfront for static software that will eventually be obsolete and stop working on more modern hardware and operating systems as they evolve.

  23. Scott

    @ProDesignTools

    Dear prodesigntools,

    I can see that there may be SOME counterfeit/illegitimate Adobe products on ebay and Amazon. Does that make ALL Adobe products on ebay and Amazon counterfeit/illegitimate?

    How many copies of say PS CS3 – CS5 do you suppose have been sold legitimately, including upgrades? Millions? Tens of millions? As of this quarter there are 3.2 million registered CC users. Did all the previous PS licensees previous to CC subscriptions just throw their old software away? Look at how many copies of these softwares are currently available (new or used) on ebay and Amazon. It’s a relative handful compared to the millions of copies in existence.

    If there was a serious counterfeit operation on these discs, don’t you suppose we’d see more for sale? And if they are crap, would there be really nasty feedback on Amazon and ebay, and both companies guarantee purchases, don’t you think they would take action themselves?

    On the subject of malware, again where is the motive? There are very few discs even available, and many are extremely high priced. This doesn’t seem like a good plan to install malware.

    Finally, I own some legitimate Adobe software purchased from a reputable dealer. If I wanted to sell this software on ebay or amazon, does that suddenly make it counterfeit? Isn’t this the scenario for millions of other legitimate Adobe softeware users?

    • Sorry Scott – your comments are well-meaning but naïve, and you don’t understand how it works (or doesn’t work)… It’s very simple – there’s a ton of money in counterfeiting, especially software which is cheap and easy to scam. The fakes have become very sophisticated and you often cannot tell them apart until it’s too late. And if there’s no disc or box involved, then no question it’s an absolute sure sign of a con!

      Meanwhile, the eBays and Amazons of the world have severe conflicts of interest and are incented to look the other way because collecting seller fees is where their revenue comes from. And in fact, high “feedback” ratings mean nothing. It’s an enormous (and growing) problem.

      Read this recent article and you’ll understand better:

      How eBay, Amazon and Alibaba Fuel the World’s Top Illegal Industry — the Counterfeit Products Market

      All this doesn’t mention anything about the indisputable fact that Adobe will disavow anything you buy from these places, and that what you install could stop working at any time. That is, of course, if your system doesn’t get infected first.

      It’s just not worth trying to save a few bucks this way, especially when it’s your own computer and your personal data & privacy at stake… Reputable is the only way to go when you are putting these things at risk.

  24. Winston Smith

    What foolishness! With E-Bay’s $-back guarantee, and a laptop you are willing to sacrifice the OS on – BUY, confirm license change/viability with Adobe, then load up and run EVERY virus detector you’ve d/l’ed “free for 10 days” onto a hard drive, a good firewall with reports and burned to a dvd, throw in a free from Really Trusted friend copy of one of the early HiRen disks (back in the days when they were legally distributing full copies of anti-malware) and a copy of all the Sysinternals (new version) from Microsoft. THEN go to town – if it works, congrats, if not return to E-Bay

    • LOL – yes, even that complicated mess is not nearly good enough, as Adobe can nix a seemingly-“working” serial number at any time if/when it’s later found to be invalid…

      This is happening a lot lately with the term-based licensing scam, which has become very popular because it’s so easy to pull off.

      Meaning buyers then get left holding the bag with a big financial loss down the road, even if everything “looked” good and seemed to check out at the time of purchase.

  25. Winston Smith

    @Winston Smith NOTE – just call E-Bay to remind them that their new “business model” is fracken EVIL

Comment pages
1 2 3 4 24976
  1. No trackbacks yet.