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George Johnson 11,671 posts
Aug 11, 2002
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Acrobat 9 License: No Service Bureau

Nov 21, 2008 12:46 AM

I just noticed section 4.6 of the Acrobat 9 License Agreement, which is:

"4.6 No Service Bureau. You will not use or offer the Software on a service bureau basis."

I'd be interested to hear any opinions on what this might mean. The term "service bureau basis" is not defined in the agreement or used elsewhere in the agreement. I've found a number of different definitions, so I'm unsure what to make of this.

Thanks,

George
 
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  • John Hawkinson
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    Jan 16, 2012 9:40 AM   in reply to George Johnson

    This section also appears in other Adobe EULAs like Section 4.7 of the InDesign EULA.

    Is anyone aware of any clarification on what it means?

     
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    Jan 19, 2012 10:04 AM   in reply to John Hawkinson

    It would be along the lines of a print shop, based on all uses I've ever seen

     

    e.g.,

     

    Is it legal to print to a file and send the file to a service bureau for printing?

    Yes. Customers may send output to a disk file instead of a printer to capture the PostScript-language stream containing the typefaces, and then send this file to a service bureau for printing.

     

    http://www.adobe.com/type/topics/licenseqa.html#q22

     

     

    What is Adobe’s policy with respect to service bureaus?
    You are allowed to give your font files to a service bureau along with a print job, IF AND ONLY IF, the service bureau already owns a valid license for that specific font.

     

    http://www.adobe.com/aboutadobe/antipiracy/ff_faq.html

     
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  • John Hawkinson
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    Jan 19, 2012 12:35 PM   in reply to ProDesignTools

    PDT: Err, what?

     

    I believe George and I are asking, "What is the prohibited usage?"

     

    It seems like your post is answering, "what is a service bureau?" or "Can I send my fonts to a service bureau?" But that doesn't have much to do with whether you can use InDesign or Acrobat "on a service bureau basis."

     
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    Jan 19, 2012 1:01 PM   in reply to John Hawkinson

    Sorry, I thought that might have been stating the obvious: Prohibited usage would be to employ such a single-user license to run a print shop, is what I've always read it as... 

     
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  • John Hawkinson
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    Jan 19, 2012 1:28 PM   in reply to ProDesignTools

    But the EULA isn't any different for a volume license. With print shops struggling to afford to upgrade to CS5.5, I don't think any but the most flush are going to spring for InDesign Server, and even if they did, they would still want to use the GUI InDesign Desktop product for dealing with users files. And there's no analagous version of the Acrobat product, either.

     

    So...surely this language is not intended to bar print shops from using InDesign and Acrobat?

     

    (I do have a suspicion for what it is intended to do, but I'm hoping to hear what other people think first. Is that irrational?)

     
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    Jan 19, 2012 2:51 PM   in reply to John Hawkinson

    The clause is sparsely written/ambiguous and I've never thought to consider second-order interpretations...  But the only other interpretation I can think of would be to prohibit offering the actual use of the software to others on a for-sale, commodity-type basis...  but I can't really imagine how that would even work.  Perhaps in this age of virtualization with client distribution over networks, it's something someone could conceivably conjure up.

     
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  • John Hawkinson
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    Jan 19, 2012 2:54 PM   in reply to ProDesignTools
     
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    Jan 19, 2012 5:26 PM   in reply to John Hawkinson

    Well, that kind of service is definitely needed so I certainly hope it wouldn't be against the terms...  It's also actually doing Adobe a big favor on usability as we deal now with new CS releases every year bringing changed file formats for most applications.  In fact I recently had a conversation with Jason Levine at MAX about this exact topic, as the version count grows...  People will be more likely to upgrade to a new version if they know it can easily save back to all/any other formats their colleagues or contacts may be using.  So I hope Adobe actually addresses this in a formal way themselves at some point, but in the meantime keep that site bookmarked regardless.

     
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    May 14, 2012 2:43 PM   in reply to George Johnson

    This clause means that you cannot rent out the software for third parties to use.  It does not mean that you yourself are prohibited from using the software in your business, even if that means you are producing a product for a third party.  Rather, it is designed to stop you from setting up a room with a computer (or now online as a Software as a Service) with the application installed on it and renting time to some third party customer for them to use the room/computer/software to produce their own products.  That is a service bureau.

     
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  • John Hawkinson
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    May 15, 2012 1:14 AM   in reply to Hindsight_Productions

    Hindsight, that is one reasonable interpretation, but it is not the only one. Can you support it with evidence beyond naked assertion?

     
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    May 15, 2012 11:23 AM   in reply to John Hawkinson

    I am an IP lawyer and drafting license agreements is one of my specialties.  The term "service bureau" (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/service+bureau; and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Service_bureau) was an somewhat archaic term dating back to the early days of computing (i.e., 1960's) when having the huge mainframes and software programs were so expensive that only big universities and companies could afford them.  IBM and other mainframe manufacturers offered a time-sharing arrangement to allow users access to these computers, which became the first offical service bureaus. See this quote from WikiPedia:

     

    "Centralized hosting of business applications dates back to the 1960s. Starting in that decade, IBM and other mainframe providers conducted a service bureau business, often referred to as time-sharing or utility computing. Such services included offering computing power and database storage to banks and other large organizations from their worldwide data centers."

     

    The term's use (or its concept anyway) has been revitilized, but the latest nomenclature is SaaS or Software as a Service.  Obviously, if the software author is the provider of the Saas, it does not care about prohibiting the service bureau because it controls the software's use.  However, if a licensee has a broad enough license to offer the use of the software to third parties (ala a service bureau), the licensee can undercut the software author's ability to receive license fees from the ultimate end users.  Hence, most license agreements expressly prohibit licensees from operating a service bureau using the licensed software.

     
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  • John Hawkinson
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    May 15, 2012 11:37 AM   in reply to Hindsight_Productions

    Wow, IP laywers citing Wikipedia? Next we'll see see Urban Dictionary citing Black's Law Dictionary!

     

    The problem with the two definitions you cite is that they are ignorant of the common usage of the term "service bureau" in the printing industry, which is where Adobe's products see major use. In the printing industry, "service bureau" refers not to mainframe timesharing and not to Software as a Service, but rather to a printing service bureau, or simply "your printer" (but not your desktop laser printer). The local company that takes your files, does some prepress, prints them out (maybe with pasteup), shoots negatives (or maybe they use an imagesetter), burns plates (maybe now they are CTP -- computer-to-plate), and runs an offset press with those plates.

     

    Now, you can argue that Adobe's License doeasn't mean that kind of service bureau, and instead means you cannot rent out the software specifically, rather than renting out your own services where you use the software. I don't find your argument compelling, but I also don't find the other side of the argument compelling. Do you have anything to offer in favor of your interpretation more strongly than a defintion in Wikipedia?

     

    I suppose I should do a Lexis search for "service bureau" and see how it it has been interpretted recently. That's not really my area but it's probably one reasonable way to try to narrow the field and understand what may really be intended here, and also how it may fall out were it ever to make it to court.

     
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    May 15, 2012 12:58 PM   in reply to John Hawkinson

    You are a smug son of a gun.

     

    First of all, without a definition in the agreement, the answer is admittedly ambiguous.  Second, in all the licensing agreements I have negotiated the term "service bureau" has been used with the most common definition I previously described.  Third, it would not make much sense to use the term to prohibit an entire segment of printing industry that would use the software, at least without offering a broader license for an additional fee, or Adobe offering the service itself.

     

    I am aware of no cases in which the term has been used in another way, or in which Adobe or another vendor has sued someone for infringement for operating a printing service bureau as its own internal business operations (i.e., produces print media for its clients/customers using its own resources, as opposed to allowing the client to come in and produce the print media on its computer system).

     

    Most licenses include this prohibition in the clause that prohibits other third party use:

     

    Licensee is expressly prohibited from:

    (a) selling, renting, sublicensing, leasing or otherwise making available the UB Products for third-party training, commercial time-sharing, rental or service bureau use, or outsourcing services for the benefit of any third parties;

    (b) reverse engineering, disassembling, or decompiling the UB Products, except to the extent otherwise expressly permitted by applicable law;

    (c)  modifying or making any derivative works of the UB Products;

    (d) using or data-mining the UB Products in any way for the purpose of designing or developing competing software and/or data or informational products; or

    (e) reproducing or storing in or transmitting the UB Products  to any third party web site, newsgroup, mailing list, or electronic bulletin board.

     

    And while Adobe's separate clause leads to ambiguity, Adobe still leaves that clause in the same similar general provision in the license agreement.  I would take on Adobe if it tried to prohibit a commercial user from printing off media using Acrobat.  Hell, every licensee would be an infringer under such an interpretation.

     
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