Pirates play with fire

I recently came to the sad realization that fully two thirds of my blog traffic is drawn not by my incisive wit or fascinating Web finds (is any? ;-)), but by geniuses looking for free CS3 serial numbers.  Somehow I became Google’s top hit for "cs3 serial," and my stats reflect it.  Lame.

Now I see that attempts to steal Photoshop can result in machines turned into spam-spraying zombies.  So, not only are people sticking it to software inventors; they’re sticking it to everyone else (and themselves) by coughing more pollution into the Net.  How’s that for a crummy little cherry on top? Additional info. [Via John Dowdell]

0 thoughts on “Pirates play with fire

  1. I have been doing a LOT of reading online lately on CS3 – I got the Web Premium package last week, love it! – and have been just amazed (to put it mildly) at the number of pages and posts and discussions regarding ‘free’ CS3serial keys. Just amazing.
    [Yeah, no doubt. I subscribe to Google Alerts for the term “photoshop,” and probably 50% of the traffic is illegitimate. –J.]
    And it’s not just that. I have also read mention of “poisoned” key generators, which is despicable. The web is a good thing to have, but people that deliberately compromise other people’s computers make the web an unsafe place to be.

  2. Sorry to hear about your blog traffic looking for cracks and keygens. I read your blog daily and have paid for legit copies of Lightroom and PSCS3. That’s the only way to fly.
    [Many thanks all around, Michael. 🙂 –J.]

  3. How many times to i have to comment before i unlock the secret blog post containing every serial ever made for CS3?
    Keep your chin up sir, we have no doubt that your wit will triumph in the end! If that doesn’t work you can start giving away 30 day demos.
    [Damn, you’ve seen through our master plan… 😉 –J.]

  4. I actually enjoy the ‘fascinating web finds’ and wit. That’s why I read every post.
    [Heh–I promise I wasn’t fishing for props, but I’ll take ’em. Thanks. –J.]
    I also just upgraded to CS3 Standard and purchased Lightroom… didn’t even think about looking for free keys.
    [My theoretical future chidren extend “Big ups” on that (demonstrating their love of future-retro slang). –J.]

  5. No free CS3 keys – apparently I subscribed for nothing.
    You may not be that funny, but you are a wealth of information, with links to great content. Keep up the good work.
    [“Not that funny…”?? 😉 –J.]

  6. I said keep up the good work, but I meant keep up the great work.
    Yeah – not that funny, at least you are creative in other ways 😉

  7. I want a free CS3 Serial number….
    But picture this in your mind: spam spraying zombies.
    Seriously, just imagine it. But the meat-like spam product instead of unsolicited emails. It’s a scary thought.
    [As long as the zombies didn’t yank the meat-like substance outta me, I’m good. –J.]

  8. It’s not just CS3 of course; a few months ago I was involved in removing some unwelcome bots from a particular IRC network (not an uncommon thing), and some investigation revealed they were coming from “keygen” or “readme” files in Office 2007 and Windows Vista Ultimate packages, mostly distributed via bittorrent from sites specializing in that sort of thing.
    The botnet creators aren’t dumb, and they know how uninformed their audience is 🙁

  9. Piracy is seriously out of control. It is not fair, for software vendors have to employ a lot of people to make their wares worthy- as John Nack can attest too, surely!
    Yet, so long as it “is possible” and so relatively easy to do, it will be done- software, movies and music will un-fairly be stolen.
    I have given up on the passionate pleas to quite normal people whom take-part in this crime. However indeed, they themselves are the ones leading us to a MUCH more controlled internet in the near future. A shame really, for I never liked paying tolls, yet alone ID’ing myself everywhere along the way!
    PS: On the flip side- One software vendor once told me that he liked software pirates, for they tried and then used his software at home and then bought it at work with the bosses money!

  10. It would be interesting to know how much “keygen-traffic” come from europe. Here Extended don’t cost $1000 (as one article you linked to referenced) but closer to $2000. And wages among higher educated people are generally lower.
    It’s time to level the prices between america and europe. And that would lower pirating. You feel kind of cheated as an european. And people who feel, for some way or another, that they are overpaying (compared to others) will probably be more likely to pirate.
    [Piracy seems to have little to do with price. I’ve seen plenty of keyword lists that provide serial numbers for $10 pieces of shareware. People working on $2000 computers can obviously afford $10 for software, but many draw more satisfaction from the thrill of ripping off a developer than from supporting that person’s efforts. –J.]

  11. I’ve been offered keygens for other CS3 products like Dreamweaver, Flash and Fireworks. I declined obviously. My next update will be to upgrade from Studio 8 to CS3 (got a new 22″ monitor and external HDD last pay).
    Pays to be honest I reckon!

  12. John-
    How ‘bout writing a scary bedtime story (attack of the killer spam zombies) that we can give to our students… Seriously, it amazes me day after day about how they fail to understand the value of IP whether its software, music, what have you.

  13. John, this brings up another issue that is good for all companies to look at. I have 4 computers of which two have internet hookup. My main work computer which has my Photoshop, Corel, and my key work software has no internet connectivity. I download on one and then actually use a jumpdrive to transfer from one to another. Some of my colleagues say I am paranoid, but I have no problems with unwanted guests. The computer I use to write to you I picked up at a yard sale for $40. If it goes I have not lost anything. I think that will be the way many will go soon. The problems are out of control.

  14. What’s even sadder, according to that graph of yours, is that you’re not monetizing your blog!!! Get with the Google ads, my friend! 😉
    [Heh–you know Adobe pays me, right? 🙂 Putting ads on the page strikes me as a little downmarket. –J.]

  15. Obviously, piracy is not good for anyone involved. Those who enjoy the software always need to purchase it so that it can get better (like Adobe products always seem to do, exponentially). However, my first version of Photoshop was not a legit copy (though it was dated), but I used the profits from graphic design work I was soon able to do to purchase my first copy of Photoshop. While I do still feel bad for pirating that first copy, it ultimately allowed me to buy my own copy. What is your view on a situation like that, John?
    [I’d be dishonest if I didn’t say I had mixed feelings about it. I was introduced to Photoshop back in college via my university’s license. I wanted to use the app on my own machine (in the dorm), but that wasn’t possible at the time via the school network. I worked in a school lab & had access to an installer disc, so I took it home with me. I also used that license on the same machine when I quit school for a semester and did Web design for a (miniscule) living.
    So, clearly this wasn’t exactly on the up-and-up, although the difference between using the school copy (for which I’d indirectly paid via tuition) on a lab machine vs. one in my room is slightly debatable. The point is, I bent the rules to use Photoshop, but when I got on my own feet I’ve always paid for it. By spending a lot more time with the app than I may have otherwise, did I end up helping or hurting Adobe?
    Adobe tries to make it affordable for students to get into the tools (I think you can get a $1700-$2500 Suite for something like $400), but I know it’s not always as simple as that. I’m not winking at piracy, but I do think there are differences among situations. –J.]
    By the way, I enjoy your blog and am always thrilled at often you update it with great links that I never seem to stumble upon by myself.
    [Groovy; thanks. –J.]

  16. Piracy seems to have little to do with price.

    I agree that piracy is largely not about money. But discriminatory regional pricing doesn’t help Adobe’s cause.
    Although I wouldn’t use pirated software myself, I’ll no longer shop anyone who does use dodgy versions of Adobe’s software. In the past I’ve reported them to piracy@adobe.com, but no more.
    Loss of goodwill is part of the piracy problem, I guess.

  17. As a freelance designer its troubling to see to what lengths people go for a serial number. Just buy it!
    I agree that it has little to do with the price. A close friend works for M$ and says that 80% of their piracy is businesses that can easily afford it.
    What is so amazing to me is, if you were a searcher of such a term.. why would you go to an adobe blog site, esp a quality blog like this one.
    Oh I forgot, John has a secret box and just like ‘Lost’ is dropping clues and if you put them together you get a CS3 Serial, woot.

  18. First of all, I like your site, and enjoyed watching you on some intro-vid about Photoshop CS3 (extended).
    I think piracy is a dilemma. I live in Europe. For example, CS3 Design premium costs approximately 2700 euro’s. I guess that’s 3000 US dollar.
    That’s an awfull lot of money for (for example) a student, who needs it for his study.
    [I don’t know European student pricing, but it’s a good bet that the discount is proportional to the US discount (which is often 50-80%). –J.]
    There are two cheaper ways: illegal (I dislike the therm piracy) or open-sourch.
    Illegal is easier in this case, because of the experience the students have with using the adobe-programs. Experience is an important factor in learning to use any type of program, in my opinion.
    Just out of curiosity, so no offense, but do you know what the cost-profit ratio is on adobe software?
    [Not offhand. All the info that can be shared publicly is in Adobe’s various financial reports. –J.]
    I will be watching your site, I am very curious about your reaction ;).
    (excuse my bad English)
    [Better than my Dutch. 😉 –J.]

  19. I live as an ex-pat in a country that is famous around the world for piracy. The capital city has a 6-floor building devoted to selling pirated software, mp3s, etc.
    A couple of thoughts on piracy:
    My feeling is that price has everything to do with piracy. A local music producer’s story was in the paper not long ago. He got sick of his music being copied and his response was to lower the price of his products. His sales went through the roof.
    Another point along the lines of Mattias – the average worker’s salary in the country I live in is subtantially lower than that of, say, the US. Photoshop takes a higher percentage of that worker’s salary than in the States. It is not fair that someone in a developing country takes a bigger hit out of the paycheck than those in the “1st” world. In terms of salary percentage, Americans pay less for PS than folks in the country I’m living in do – very not fair!
    [So, out of curiosity, would you say that if my income were to be cut by a factor of 10, I should be entitled to get Photoshop for $60? And if someone joined Adobe a couple of months before I did or a couple of years after and thus made 10x on stock the amount I’ll ever make (which is exactly the case, btw), would you say that person should pay $6000 for the same product? And what does any of that have to do with the cost of producing the product? Seems like there was some old bearded European with thoughts on the subject. –J.]
    In my opinion, price is the single largest determining factor in piracy.

  20. There are two cheaper ways: illegal (I dislike the therm piracy) or open-sourch.
    There’s a third cheaper way. When I got started out with digital imaging in 1999, I balked at spending $600 for Photoshop. I was offered an illegal copy, but I refused it in favor of paying a much more reasonable price for Paint Shop Pro (Elements didn’t exist then).
    I happily used (and upgraded) PSP until 2005, when Corel released PSP X. After spending too much time discovering the frustrating undocumented limitations its the beta-quality color management and 16-bit support (which remain unfinished beta in PSP XI), I decided it was finally time to open wide my checkbook and invite the Adobe Borg to assimilate me. Until that point, I seriously believed that PSP would become a viable challenge to Adobe’s monopoly. But instead Corel sold me Photoshop CS2. We are Borg! Resistance is futile!
    And now the Hive Mind is calling me to deliver my $200 tribute. Not to worry, I’ll get to it soon. We are Borg! Resistance is futile!

  21. John, I’ve been documenting a Swing Dance camp in Sweden for the last couple of years and they have an admirable policy when it comes to pricing. People from countries that tend to have a lower income pay less, 1000SEK as opposed to 3600SEK for the better off nations.
    Adobe seem to do the opposite with regard to the US + the UK. I paid nearly as much for the ‘discounted’ LR as an American pays for the full price version. Photographers here are not paid as well as in the US and are costs are higher too.
    Software pricing historically was aimed at rich businesses. Private individuals with no tax write off options, could not [and still cannot] afford to those prices – hence the rise of piracy amongst people who would never consider stealing in any other area.
    Even if you have a good enough computer to run PS, £500 will easily do it, the software to put on the machine for graphics/design may cost closer to £2000. And don’t forget the other bits of software you also need, that’ll put the price up further.
    The Adobe Creative Suite 3 Design Premium costs $1600/£800 in the US. The Adobe Creative Suite 3 Design Premium Upgrade, not the suite, the upgrade costs $1400/£700. A better example of a blatant rip off would be very, very hard to find.

  22. So do like the MPAA and litter the web with bad serial numbers. Eventually they’ll just get sick of it and quit.
    But seriously, when did Adobe switch to upgrades only being available to users of the last two versions? I was shocked when one of my posters mentioned they had a fully-paid copy of PS6 which didn’t qualify as a legit upgrade path to CS3.
    [As of CS3 the policy changed so that you can upgrade from three versions back (PS7, CS, and CS2). That’s in line with what most of the industry does, but it’s less generous than it used to be. I don’t know why the policy wasn’t communicated better beforehand. Frankly it was off my radar (I tend to keep my head down, focused on what’s “in the box” rather than what’s “on the box”), so I’m sorry I didn’t help give a heads-up about it. –J.]
    All piracy is bad, but not all piracy is driven by kids looking for freebies, either. More than a little is driven by individuals that feel they’ve been hosed, and therefore it’s only fair (I don’t condone this, I’m only stating that I’ve seen this more than a few times).

  23. How do you set a “fair” price? The issue seems intractably difficult. Where I live (developing nation), foreigners are charged 10X to 100X local prices for things like admission tickets to zoos and national parks. The thinking is that we make so much more money. But what about the local who makes 1,000X what I do?
    Clearly, fixing a price depending on “average income” will not work for many reasons.
    From the business side, a profit margin has to be factored in. From the creative side, imagine if Van Gogh had to spend 100x more for his brushes. We’d never have “Starry Night” or “Sunflowers”.
    The point of my original post, though, was this – in many sectors, price has everything to do with piracy. How to solve it? It will take minds better than mine to figure out what “fair” means.

  24. so, I was looking for a more affordable alternative to adobe products and ended up here. Any suggestions? Raising a family of 4 on a single income doesn’t exactly leave an extra grand lying around to get the full blown master set (which is what I really need).. anyone have any suggestions?

  25. Take a course at a local community college so you can qualify for the academic version (usually about 1/2 price.)

  26. All this piracy talk is interesting. My take is that the product is far too expensive in the first place, and I get discriminiated against because I am not in America.
    I am still using PS7 because of the high cost of the later versions of the product. But I am now really forced to upgrade because if I don’t then I will have to pay full price to upgrade after the next version comes out.
    So I tried to upgrade over the net. What a crock. Adobe will not let me upgrade via the US site because I live in Australia. It costs more in Australia. So I am penalised because I do not live in the USA. Eventually I tried to upgrade in Australia using my Visa debit card (I do not own a credit card) and Adobe would not recognise my Australian Visa debit card in Australia. So I tried, I really tried, to do the right thing and Adobe penalised me. You should note that no other company has a problem with my Visa debit card. I emailed Adobe but received no answer on this problem. Adobe needs to get their act together over this.
    It is a pain in the backside, trying to do the right thing and being stopped by the very people who I really think overcharge by expecting too high a price anyway.
    I do not accept the high costs of development as a valid argument for pricing. I can read the profits software companies make as well as anyone and they make more money then I do in my specialisation which is dedicated to software as well.
    Pricing is decided by profit goals and this has a lot of people thinking that piracy is OK because they pirate and you still make great big profits. Therefore they do not think they are ripping you off. I have heard this argument from many levels. I know you reject it. I do not accept it, but I think it has merit and needs more discussion. Like the musician mentioned above that sold more when the price dropped, perhaps Adobe could maintain their profits with a lower price as well.
    So the dilemma continues. Trying to do the right thing at high cost, being rejected unfairly, and some guy on the street offers me a copy for 50 bucks. All of a sudden it look attractive. However, being a legal type of guy I still use PS7. I will upgrade when I can manage to do it, but yes, I am still being ripped off because I am not in America and because I do not use a credit card.
    (BTW, I am currently trying out the CS3 trial and I love it. I will have to make that upgrade soon because I am unsure I can go back to 7 full time now…)

  27. Addition for today. Yesterday I was offered a pirated copy of CS3 Ext for just $5. Wow! It sure is cheap to some. But I refused and have just 18 days to go on my trial copy.
    Another issue you may want to look at, Jack. I downloaded the trial copy. When the system lets me use my debit card and actually buy the upgrade, it will make me download the whole 400+ MB once again. I tried this yesterday all fired up with enthusiasm after the cheap pirated offer. I gave up again.
    If my trial copy has a screen that says I can just buy the serial, then why when I try, do I have to download it all again??? Whay can’t I just buy that serial?
    [Ah–but you don’t have to re-download it! Maybe the instructions aren’t clear on that point (which wouldn’t surprise me; I need to go take a look). You can simply take the serial number you’ve purchased and enter that into the downloaded software. We’ve spent a lot of effort over the last few cycles to make this “Try & Buy” process possible. –J.]

  28. When I log onto Adobe.com and ask to buy the product, it takes me to a screen that wants me to download the lot, it does not give me a choice of the package or just a serial number…
    1. If I go to the Adobe Store, the Upgrade offer is to download 796 MB or ship the box to me. There is no provision to ‘Purchase Serial Number’.
    2. The Traial that can be made full by inserting a Serial Number is 474MB. If I purchase the Upgrade it is 796MB. That’s an extra 324MB. Why is htis? What else is provided in the upgrade?

  29. OK, I just finally read the fine print, the download instructions. This is a usability issue you can improve in Adobe. To find out what exactly we are donloading we need to read fine print. You can add on the product page that a serial can be purchased at the download page if the trials has alrady been installed. That would help.
    The product page info makes it appear that only many MB is available.
    The question about the download size remains…

  30. Last Post, I give up.
    Upgrade to CS3, this costs US$199 in US, US$283 in UK, and US$314 in Australia.
    If I try to buy from a cheaper shop in another country you stop me and log me out of Adobe.com. If I try to use my debit card you reject it. If I try to use a card from one country where my bank account is located whilst I live an another country you reject it. And you do not provide a PayPal option, because PayPal do a damn fine job and do not give hassle to good customers.
    And you people wonder why your software get pirated and fool yourselves that it is not about money.
    Sorry Jack, it has everything to do with costs, and with quality of service.
    Until you guys make some real changes to the service you deliver and the cost of that delivery, the problem will not change.
    I am sick of Adobe attitude and marketing and service quality. From now on, I do not care for you or your products.

  31. You people amaze me. While you are agonizing over getting fair-priced Adobes, I bought a working CS3 in China–$21. It works great and I sleep soundly. I never buy “legal” rip-off software unless given no choice. These greedy companies have only themselves to blame. They and their scum brethren-the RIAA.
    [Yes, that’s right; *we’re* the a-holes. –J.]
    [Nice touch. I assume that’s meant ironically. –J.]

  32. This whole thing about Piracy leads me to say that it is not much different with Republicans and Democrats.
    Republicans say take care of yourself
    Democrats say we will take care of you.
    Adobe being the republicans, and the Democrats being the ones that make Hack Versions of software.
    Piracy I feel is driven by several factors.
    1: Teens who feel that they have the right to back engineer software and strip away the serial codes, and hack a software program so they themselves can use it.
    2: People who really need the power of a full blown program without the constraints of a trial period ending and making the software useless, and not wanting to pay for a the program.
    3: And the power of a corporation who designed and programmed the software to do what it does, and make it the best that it can be, but yet make it so unafordable by those who wish to use the program.
    Adobe software packages in my eyes are very good. The design and programming time that is involved with creating software should be paid for.
    I personally opted to out right purchase Adobe Premier Elements because it was excellent, easy to use, and does what I need it to do. Could the software do more? Sure it could, would I pay for it? With in reason. Would I pirate the software…no.
    Are there software packages that Adobe has produced that I would love to own and use? YES, would I pay the $800 or more to purchase them? NO I can not afford to shell out that kind of money.
    I have tried the trial versions of some of their programs and all I can saw is WoW, and I lament everytime I try to reuse the trial version but since its past its 30 day run, I can not…”how does it know?”….
    Have I been tempted to get cracked versions of the programs? Yes. but I know what happens. Seen it happen, people getting infected with nasty trojans, viruses, etc…is it worth the headache? In my mind NO.
    I would love to have access to the Adobe CS3 Suite, and would be more than happy to shell out some hard earned cash, but Adobe has priced it so high out of my wallet, that I just sit here waiting for the day when it will be affordable to me. I know that day will never come, but why lock out so many people who would be more than willing to shell out a hundred or two hundred for a well designed program by making it so unafordable to the average individual?
    Sorry $800 or more dollars for me is way to pricey. Are there alternatives? I have searched and the answer to that is yes, but not as good as what Adobe offers.
    Someday when I hit powerball, Ill be purchasing what I need. Till then I sit back and dream of the day, once again, when I can do what I need to do with the power of ADOBE

  33. Ah, I was proven right..I had decided to see about getting ADOBE ENCORE 2.0 well I called adobe to get a license
    Several problems
    first of all its not supported with windows Vista
    second you can not purchase just that program it comes bundled with 2 other programs I dont need…and for a cost of almost a $1000 I wonder what I will do now….I now know that adobe will never split that program off or offer version 2.0 as a lesser expensive version….sigh….

  34. Adobe is like a wondeful, magical, knight in shining army to me, even though I only use it for my comic book hobbies. However, I can’t, and probably will never be able to afford it T_T.
    The knight keeps cutting my head off. I really want to upgrade from my ancient adobe software, and I have some school experiance in the CS2, so I get horribly depressed that my work (even though I’m just an amateur) will never be what I want it to be. Every once and will I start to type K-E-Y-G…. then I remember what happened to my first computer, and leave it alone.

  35. Hey, I actually like your blog. I’ve read a couple entries. However, I recall you on a previous blog making fun of someone who asked for a serial number. You fooled around with him and talked about doing his lawn for free and all kinds of cute stuff. You asked him if “we” are for real.
    [That’s correct. I wonder whether people seriously come to this blog, say “Give me a serial number worth hundreds of dollars so that I can avoid paying you for your hard work,” and expect me to say, “Okey dokey! Comin’ right up!” I think, amazingly enough, *they really do*. What incredible dumbasses. –J.]
    To follow up on that users comment, yes, we are for real.
    [This from a guy who uses a fake email address. –J.]
    Why do you expect that people are going to give money to the same bastards who absolutely screwed flash and turned it into a steaming pile of crap? I thought I saw CS2 still being sold for a couple hundred dollars recently. Ha, not going to happen. Not when CS3 has been out for over a year and not when its already overpriced to start with. Those who rip others off will be ripped off. I was just coming to give my two cents. I don’t need help with a serial number or any of that. If I want to find one and activate Photoshop, whether it be CS2 or CS3, then I can do it easily with hardly any effort. Your companies defense against software pirating is about as good as Microsoft’s. And no, that’s not a compliment. Good luck in the future and your company deserves at least part of the animosity it gets.

  36. You should pass on a note to your friendly readers warning them not to buy copies of CS3 from “legitimate retailers” at suspiciously discounted prices on CraigsList. They come up with all sorts of excuses but at the end of the day they are only selling you a disc of the software along with a keygen program.
    …not that I’ve ever fallen for such a dastardly scheme, dear me no. =)
    (Yes, I’ve learned my lesson and have since bought the proper retail version with a legal serial number. Now I have the much easier – and legal – task of suckering my boss to let me expense it…)

  37. Your service sucks! I have now tried 3 times to download the Adobe CS3 and/or 4 and you have continually rejected my card which is in perfect standing order! The most annoying part is that you cannot buy CS4 from a reseller because its not being sold to resellers and you cannot buy if from the adobe site because it always rejects your and (and after calling up Customer Service they offer NO REASON!)
    thank god you have a monopoly! because a real choice would definitely lead everyone to go with a provider who treats quality customers… I hate this company!

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