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Graphics Software Makers Launch New Campaigns Against Piracy

By Joe LiPetri

Software piracy is becoming a major problem for makers of graphics programs.

According to a recent annual study published by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) and the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), 25 percent of new software programs (or one in every four applications) installed on computers in North America last year were pirated.

Makers of graphics software packages such as Adobe Systems, Macromedia, and Corel, say this estimate is conservative and that worldwide figures are actually much higher. Working with the BSA, these companies are hitting end users particularly hard. Over the last 18 months BSA has nabbed several design firms, ad agencies, and publishers with illegal copies of software on their computers.

Earlier this year a graphic design firm in Peoria IL, agreed to pay BSA $98,000 to settle claims for having unlicensed copies of Adobe and Microsoft software on its computers.

Last December (1998) an advertising agency in Lawrenceville, NJ, settled a $125,000 claim for unlicensed copies of programs published by Adobe, Microsoft, and Symantec.

In July, 1998, a Washington, DC graphic/blueprint design firm settled a $95,000 claim of copyright infringement for having illegal copies of programs from Autodesk, Adobe, and Microsoft.

Last spring a Dallas-based publishing company paid $123,698 to BSA for unlicensed copies of software programs manufactured by Adobe, Lotus, and Microsoft.

Individual software manufacturers are also hitting back with their own anti-piracy initiatives. The most recent example is Macromedia, maker of Web design and multimedia packages such as DreamWeaver and Director, which has just obtained a $194,000 settlement from a San Diego-based computer training school that was teaching courses using illegal copies of Macromedia software.

"We're pushing hard to recoup some of those losses by focusing on the end user who passes around a single copy of a program in an office," says Steve Wozniak, Macromedia's anti-piracy manager (and not Apple Computer's cofounder). "We'd prefer it if everyone bought the software; we don't like to come after people. But we have to send a clear message that we will come after folks if we have to."

Likewise, at Corel, which makes CorelDraw, Photo-Paint, Ventura, and WordPerfect, pass-along piracy is a major concern, says Heather MacDonald, Corel's global anti-piracy coordinator, that "affects all of our software programs." Besides working with the BSA, Corel's in-house program combats piracy by purchasing software from Internet resellers, and working with outside investigators.

In fact, selling pirated software over the Internet is one of the biggest problems for graphics software makers, say Wozniak and MacDonald. More than 95 percent of the calls to Corel's anti-piracy hotline (888-761-6907) are made by people who buy software from Internet resellers, says MacDonald. Macromedia is wrestling with the same dilemma, as well as Internet "auction houses" that sell software for a fraction of its list price and people who post copies of the firm's programs on the Internet for free downloading.

Adobe Systems recently launched an ambitious campaign that attempts to balance education and enforcement in dealing with software piracy. The first part of Adobe's new initiative is designed to, among other things, raise the awareness of the topic in the graphics industry.

Called the Robin Hood Initiative, the two-month-old program is designed to provide information through the firm's Web site ( about the disadvantages and risks of using pirated software. The site also has a Dos and Don'ts list for buying and using software (see box) and PDF software management guides available for downloading.

"Robin Hood is designed to partner with users and help them understand the value of using legal software, and how to do it," says Brian Fleisher, Adobe's business development manager. "We find that piracy often results from confusion about the rights and responsibilities of owning software."

The site also allows people to report cases of software piracy, either by filling out an online form or calling the BSA or SIIA anti-piracy hotlines (888-NO-PIRACY or 800-388-7478, respectively). For every tip that leads to the sale of Adobe software, Adobe is making software donations to charities and schools through Gifts in Kind, a Washington, DC-based non-profit organization.

The second part of Adobe's program takes a hard-line approach against people who distribute and sell copies of the software maker's products illegally. Over the past year Adobe has settled 10 lawsuits and initiated roughly a dozen others against various software resellers, who are required to reimburse Adobe for any profits the company may have lost, as well as pay the company's legal fees. In most cases, the resellers are not permitted to trade in Adobe products for several years.

"Our goal is to ensure that resellers of pirated products lose far more than they profited from their illegal sales," says Batur Oktay, Adobe's corporate attorney.

DOs and DON'Ts of Software Licensing


  • Look at what's being offered; if it seems too good to be true, it probably is
  • Always obtain software from a reputable reseller
  • Make sure the software comes with a license agreement, original disks, and authentic packaging
  • Get enough licenses for all programs being used
  • Do not buy software labeled "Not for Resale"
  • Never purchase software labeled "For Bundles Only" without the appropriate hardware
  • Keep the original receipt and invoice; it is proof of legally purchased software
  • Always register the program

  • DON'Ts

    As an end-user, doing any of the following is illegal:

  • Make copies of software (including fonts) other than those allowed by the license agreement
  • Rent, lease, sublicense, or lend the software or documentation
  • Download from a server without a license
  • Share or copy fonts beyond what the license agreement allows
  • Include a font copy with source files for output
  • Source: Adobe Systems


    First published October 1, 1999

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