Adobe, Autodesk, and Corel team up in copyright infringement lawsuit

Adobe, Autodesk and Corel have joined forces in a copyright infringement lawsuit against the clothing retailer Forever 21. According to the complaint document that was filed, these three companies assert that Forever 21 used several products from these companies in a way that broke copyright law. The document also asserts that Forever 21 took steps to circumvent

The document says Forever 21 "(a) copied and reproduced certain of the Adobe Products, Autodesk Products, and Corel Products; and (b) circumvented technological measures that effectively control access to the Adobe Products, Autodesk Products, and Corel Products (collectively, the 'Access Control Technology').”

The document also states that Forever 21 also allegedly continued to use the software even after being contacted by Adobe. The software corporations are suing for damages due to the piracy of the software, profits derived by Forever 21's alleged use of the software, other damages, and for lawyer fees.

Forever 21 is a huge retailer that reported around $3.7 billion (USD) in sales in 2013. Forever 21 is also ranked as the 122nd largest private company in the US by Forbes. Is this a case of these three companies going after deep pockets? Why would Adobe, Autodesk and Corel need to do that? It is more of a precedent and for an explanation as to why they need to go to a subscription only licensing model. That type of model makes copyright infringement more difficult to do.

How many of you have ever worked at a company, regardless of size, where software (like AutoCAD, Photoshop, WinZip-all of which are listed in the document) was used illegally? The thought at the time might have been that it doesn't really hurt anyone. Adobe, Autodesk, and Corel would disagree. I would disagree too.

For me there are three really amazing points in this case.

  • The list of programs used. It goes on for multiple pages. One of which is WinZip. Really? there are so many other options for this and Windows has built in tools that can do what WinZip does. It is not 1995.
  • Adobe asked Forever 21 to stop but they didn't. For whatever reason Forever 21 must not have thought Adobe and Autodesk wouldn't file a lawsuit. I guess they were wrong.
  • The lawsuit includes compensation for the loss of revenue from the lack of sales in software but also for Forever 21's profits made by using these products. Remember in 2013 they had over $3 billion in sales! That could be a lot of money.
These three companies make a several products that many industries use every day. It is easy to forget how digital licensing works. When you purchase a license you aren't purchasing the software. You are actually purchasing the right to use the tool under specific circumstances. Just because you have a copy of the software on a CD, thumb drive, or your server doesn;t mean you physically own anything.

The way the software licensing was distributed and controlled has been shown time and time again to not be user-friendly and difficult to understand. A few years ago Adobe made the move to a subscription only licensing model. Autodesk announced their plans to go subscription only earlier this week. Microsoft tried that with Office 2013 but soon made a perpetual license model also available after a lot of outcry from users. Adobe had a similar outcry from their clients but they stood firm. Autodesk is taking a different approach in that they are easing into it. Their transformation will actually take two years until they are fully on subscription only licensing. The first year will incorporate standalone products with year two including design suites.

Software piracy and copyright infringement are two major issues for these three companies that is why they are making the switch to subscription-based licensing. Don't forget too that these companies should see a more consistent stream of cash flow as well. So yes it is about the bottom line for them. But that is what they are all really in the business of, making money. They make software to make money and they have to make as much money as they can to keep their stockholders happy. These types of gigantic lawsuits help to keep other companies from pirating their products. If Adobe, Autodesk, or Corel never filed suit against these types of activities then everyone would steal their software because nobody would fear getting caught. Adobe told Forever 21 they that caught them but Forever 21 continued with their illegal (alleged) use.

So what does this mean for the average CAD user or reader of this blog? Don't use software illegally even if your boss tells you to.