8 Replies Latest reply on Mar 21, 2013 7:51 AM by Dave LaRonde Branched from an earlier discussion.

    questions about divulging information about future features

    Matt Dubuque Level 1

      Good morning,

       

      I'm making my way through this thread for the first time.

       

      As someone who has passed the California Bar and who has been a stockbroker in the past, I would like to comment on the statement of Steve Forde, who was the Senior Product Manager for Visual Effects for Adobe for portions of 2011.

       

      Steve said,

      "Unfortunately - we get stuck in a legal pinch about commenting on ANYTHING that may or may not be in future products, off the record or otherwise."

       

      I'm asking that you consult your internal SENIOR legal counsel again regarding this statement that you assert prohibits you from giving any details whatsoever about what the Adobe Team may or may not aspire to having in future versions of After Effects.

       

      I'm asking this of you for a couple of reasons.

       

      Firstly, no attorney denies that the law changes over time and recent court decisions have made shareholder derivative lawsuits much less popular as a way for the plaintiff's bar to make a quick buck by extorting money from companies who may have made aspirational statements to shareholders or others in conference calls or elsewhere.

       

      As I understand the current trends in Delaware Law, (which, as the situs for quite a few corporations governs large swaths of their conduct) as long as appropriate disclaimers are clearly communicated at the time of the aspirational statement, such language is now permissible.

       

      Such standard disclaimers could include language such as

       

      "we cannot guarantee whether any feature discussed will appear within one year or within five years or whether it will ever appear at all.  It is currently a goal of the design team to reintroduce this feature, but we reserve the right, in our exclusive discretion to change that decision for any reason whatsoever, without consequence.

       

      Additionally, you are vested with no rights to rely on any assertion or representation made based on any such aspirational statement and we insist and demand you consult an attorney before embarking on any course of conduct, such as purchasing stock or altering any current or projected business plan, based in any manner upon what we say here.

       

      However, given the above caveats, it is the current goal of the Adobe design team to reintroduce this feature within the next three releases of AE again, subject to change at our sole and exclusive direction in any manner, time or mode of our choosing, without prior notice of any kind."

       

      If you had a standard disclaimer such as the above that you attached to any and all such statements (by having it appear within the signature block of any Adobe employee posting to this forum), it could take conversations such as this to a more rewarding level for both Adobe staff (who could share their very profound dreams and aspirations with us) and the Adobe community at large, which provides inspiration and helpful feedback to Adobe employees seeking to assist us.

       

      Then the focus could shift to whether or not you were divulging trade secrets.  But it would still permit you to be more informative in a general way.

       

      So I ask that you run this by your SENIOR legal counsel again.   Remember, just as there can be different ways to tackle the same 3D graphics animation challenge, each with rewarding results, attorneys similarly can vary from attorney to attorney and new and bright ideas on how to approach such issues do occur from time to time, especially in light of the massive favorable swings in case law supporting the rights of massive global corporations such as Adobe viz a viz the rights of the little guy.


      Sincerely, Matt Dubuque

       

       

       

      Here is Steve's quote in its entirety, from May 26, 2011:

       

      Unfortunately - we get stuck in a legal pinch about commenting on ANYTHING that may or may not be in future products, off the record or otherwise.

       

      That being said, as Michael explained in a previous post, Vector Paint got stuck in the conversion of AE to 64 bit.  It's something we hear quite a bit from our users that Vector Paint is important.  Again - wish I could give you more than that, but we are bound by very strict rules.

       

      Therefore - it is important to us, and the more we hear via this form the more likely it is to get resources behind it in a future release. Again I realize it is impersonal, but the results of this form are sent via email to a real human every time someone hits submit; then that person brings the results of submission to a weekly meeting on the AE team where we discuss features and scheduling.

       

      Steve

      Sr. Product Manager - Visual Effects

      Adobe Systems Inc.

        • 1. Re: questions about divulging information about future features
          Todd_Kopriva Level 8

          I branched this from a previous thread, since it's a different conversation.

          • 2. Re: questions about divulging information about future features
            Matt Dubuque Level 1

            Thanks Todd,

             

            Just as I'm sure great AE artists such as you, Rick, Mark Christiansen and Chris Meyer can learn from each other on ways to tackle a complex 3D animation issue, great attorneys benefit from conversing with each other about different ways to approach a complex legal subject such as this.

             

            And because the legal environment has shifted very sharply AGAINST the filing of frivolous shareholder and derivative lawsuits, it may be time for a great team of attorneys to revisit the question.

             

            Many of these cases are heard in the San Jose branch of the Federal District Court, which is closely watched nationwide because it resides in the heart of Silicon Valley.   In a shocking case recently adjudicated by Judge Fogel, he not only denied any attorney's fees at all for one of these frivolous class actions, he ALSO ordered that the plaintiff to pay the large attorney fees of the corporation it sued. 

             

            This decision alone caused a noticeable decline in new frivolous filings....

             

            Additonally, the Delaware Chancery Court is changing along these lines as well.

             

            Quite simply, it is now a little easier to breathe and inhale and share some helpful comments, given appropriate and competent disclaimers, without as much fear of frivolous lawsuits.

             

            I've spoken with some of the top securities lawyers (their own subspecialty) on this very subject.

             

            Matt Dubuque

            • 3. Re: questions about divulging information about future features
              Todd_Kopriva Level 8

              We have good reason to believe that we'll be able to speak more freely about such things soon. Stay tuned.

              • 4. Re: questions about divulging information about future features
                Rick Gerard Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                Legal or not, will stand up in court or not, isn't really the question here is it. Isn't the question do you wish to breach an NDA. It is my understanding which I gained by signing NDA's for everything from filming the construction process for cruise missiles at the Boeing Plant for classified internal training videos, to permission to walk on a green screen stage at ILM while they are in production on a feature, you can be asked to not disclose anything. Is it not company policy that dictates what may or may not be disclosed in an NDA? If you sign one are you not bound by it's language? Wouldn't enforcing penalties be the only part that would need to be governed by the law?

                 

                I'm not a lawyer but I've had national security clearances, filmed on active duty aircraft carriers, shot on submarines, shot hundreds of videos and been on hundreds of sets where an NDA was required and I've got an entire file cabinet drawer filled with the NDA's I've signed. I've read a bunch of them, and sometimes what they ask you to not disclose seems a little paranoid, but if you don't want to agree, is it not their right to not let you see it or share it?

                 

                I'm not sure I see an advantage for Adobe or it's users to speculate on what may be included in a new feature. I know that it's a huge marketing blunder, legal or not, to even imply that a product may contain a feature that does not end up in the shipping version. I do see a great advantage to openly discuss feature requests. It's also an advantage in the feature request process to know why a feature was removed. In the case of Vector Paint, it has been explained as a necessary step to deliver the product in a timely manner.

                • 5. Re: questions about divulging information about future features
                  Dave LaRonde Level 6

                  Attaching an appropriate disclaimer may be fine for an attorney to dot all the i's and cross all the t's, but there is one thing it will NOT do: it won't stop people from misinterpreting what they read.

                   

                  Most people go by what they PERCEIVE to be true and not the ACTUAL truth, a fact that people in marketing like me deal with all the time.

                   

                  Steve Forde might write the following totally hypothetical and totally fictional line in a blog:

                   

                  "We're thinking about a feature for a future version.  Right now we call it the Clean Plate Generator.  You would be able to shoot a single clip, panning and tilting the camera as desired, and After Effects would automatically create an image whose total size matches the totality of the image shot in the clip.  It would even remove selected foreground subjects such as a stray person who inadvertantly walks into the shot."

                   

                  Sounds great, yes?  And with your proposed disclaimer, all would be good; Adobe would have covered its corporate pink posterior.  Or would it?

                   

                  Do you wish to speculate how many people would read that as a statement of a definitely-going-to-be-there feature in the next AE version? 

                  Can you imagine the can of worms that would open when this fictional feature isn't in the next version? 

                  Would it really be worth the massive and expensive fence-mending campaign Adobe would have to undertake among angry users who were erroneously looking forward to this fictional feature? 

                  All of which could have been avoided simply by not saying a word?

                   

                  I can see where attorneys may like a hypothetical situation as the one above: they could charge more billable hours!  I doubt Adobe would like it, however.

                   

                  Legalese is one thing, maintaining happy customers is another, and there is no amount of legalese that can overcome people's nasty tendancy to perceive what they read as what they WANT to read instead of what is actually written.

                   

                  If people would read what was actually written, there would be far fewer posts in this forum that say in essence, "Hey, how come it takes two weeks to render ray tracing on the brand-new HP student laptop  I just got from Wal-Mart?"

                  • 6. Re: questions about divulging information about future features
                    Mylenium Most Valuable Participant

                    Agree with Rick and Dave. Generally it's not the best idea to even talk about such stuff because people misinterpret. A good example of this is the Adobe MAX tech-demo of the de-blur filter which people simply assumed would be in CS6 and then went all crazy when it was nowhere to be found. You know, me having fun speculating about CS7 or whatever features on my own head on my blog is a different thing from a company making such statements, no matter when and where. Adobe are pretty hard-nosed about it, anyway - they even cover their behinds for something as trivial as a giveaway of some software provided by others on the AE & Me scavenger hunt and don't allow people to participate because US legislation wouldn't be applicable... Therefore I don't see how that would work if they ever gave out information about products and services under development, not just because some shareholder might sue them for damages...

                     

                    Mylenium

                    • 7. Re: questions about divulging information about future features
                      Matt Dubuque Level 1

                      Todd, I think that's good news about the likelihood, not the certainty, that you will have a bit more freedom to be a little more detailed in certain responses soon.

                       

                      The other gentlemen address the risk of being misinterpreted.

                       

                      The propagation of error in any system of language and signs is always a risk and invariably occurs.

                       

                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_theory

                       

                      Nevertheless, we continue speaking and writing and using codecs to transcode our footage and TCP/IP to communicate our thoughts.

                      • 8. Re: questions about divulging information about future features
                        Dave LaRonde Level 6

                        Nevertheless, we continue speaking and writing and using codecs to transcode our footage and TCP/IP to communicate our thoughts.

                         

                        And we also strive to communicate clearly and concisely at all times... to varying degrees of success.  A simple disclaimer isn't going to overcome the negative impact of poor writing.