1 Reply Latest reply on Feb 17, 2014 5:10 PM by Mike M

    Feedback on Adobe's Term of Use Policy

    The Dandy Banterer


      Have you ever read the terms of use that you agree with when you install or download something? I'm one of those people who actually go ahead and reads the Terms of Conditions, or Terms of Use before signing anything. Not that it ever matters in most cases, I need the service that I was about to install anyway, but I always like to know what I agree with before I use it. And I’ve been doing it for years with all services that I use.

      I'm a Dutch designer and I use Photoshop, Bridge, Illustrator, Reader X, Flash, Flash Player and Premiere. And after the last time I checked the Terms of Use for the Flash Player I feel I had to contact Adobe and give them some much needed feedback. However, if you wish to know the actual feedback you have to read and agree with the Conditions below… No just kidding, let me start off with a short summary.


      Short sumary

      If you want everyone to use your products please cater your services as simple as possible. That means that you should communicate your service in such a fashion that even those who have little to no experience with legal practices can read your legal documents and understand them.


      This requires that you do the following every time you want a user to agree with your Terms of Use:

      1. Directly link the user to the right document that they have to agree on, if they have to agree to several documents offer them several links and specifically state that the user agrees with all these documents at the same time.
      2. List all possible languages that your service communicates with in the same document, that way you are always sure that, no matter what, everyone that you cater your services too can read your legal documents.
      3. Start every Terms of Use document with a Table of Contents that lists all languages that you communicate in so that the user can easily find to the right language and the right page it is on.
      4. Start every Language chapter with a title saying what language it is and then provide a table of contents that lists all the sections of the document so that all sections of the document are easilly navigatable.
      5. Provide a short summary of the entire Terms of Use so that everyone knows what the document will be about and that even laymen who have no experience in reading contracts kan know what they agree with. (Albeit, be it in short terms.)
      6. Provide a way that your user can contact you or your legal department in case your documents contain spelling errors, or in case the reader has questions about the document or the service that is attached to it.
      7. And finally, if you insist on sending your users to one central website that lists all your documents, provide a “frequently used documents” section at the top of your website so that your most populair services can be found directly when needed.



      So why do I say these things and why do I think Adobe needs to change his current policy? Let me tell you my full report using the example of Flash Player 12.0.


      Product licenses and terms of use Website

      In my experience Adobe is the absolute king of terrible terms and conditions. Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t because their Terms are terrible or evil or anything. It’s just because most modern people have at least two Adobe products on their computer at all time and you'd expect Adobe to take a little responsibility because of this. I'm talking about the Flash Player, for YouTube use , and the Adobe Reader, for reading .PDF files. Adobe's products have regular updates that requiring you to accept the terms and conditions every time. So this is rather annoying if you actually read these terms and call me crazy because I always do.

      Allow me to congratulate you if you ever clicked the link that you get when you have to agree with the Terms of Use. My guess is that hardly no-one ever does or obviously no complaint has ever reached Adobe, because the link that it provides is absolutely confusing. It links to this website, http://www.adobe.com/legal/licenses-terms.html and it’s a horror to behold, considering you only want to read the Terms and Coditions of this one service that you really want to use.

      To many scaterred documents

      If you’ve never seen it, the Terms and Conditions website is a large list of .PDF files that you can only access if you have an active internet connection. Now, note how all these files I'm talking about are .PDFs. Meaning that anyone who wants to read the terms and conditions of the Adobe Reader - before opening a .PDF someone sent him - probably has to already own a functional .PDF reader in order to read the terms and conditions. Be it madness, irony or a false assumption, I don’t know, but it’s a funny thought to start off on this website.

      Can't find the right content

      Well, there's that. But imagine you are like me and you want to update your Flash player to the new 12.0 version. You click the Terms of Use link before you tick the "Yes I agree box". You go to the website and then you look at this enormous list of documents. And you realise that there is not just one document that you have to read. You quickly spy there are several documents called “Flash” and only one of them is probably the one called "Flash Player version 12.0". But don’t forget the very important “General Terms of Use” of course. Because next to your Flash Player license you also accept Adobe's General Terms of Use. Now nobody tells you that you have to do this, nor is it written on the website itself, you just have to assume this. Because if you ever actually read a Software Terms of Use document before you know that most of them require you to also accept the General Terms of Use.


      General Terms of Use may aply

      The General Terms is the first document on the website, so that isn't that hard to find.http://www.latinodecisions.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/2012-vote.jpg?w=150

      It’s this document - http://wwwimages.adobe.com/www.adobe.com/content/dam/Adobe/en/legal/licenses-terms/pdf/Ado be_General_Terms_of_Use-en_US-20121016_1205_web%20version.pdf

      And on February the 17th, in 2014 this link downloads a English-only Terms of Use .PDF document that was last updated on October 16, 2012. That's right, it's two years old and English only, so it was written before the United States presidential elections of 2012. Oh and good luck to those abroad co-workers who really like to know what they have to agree with in order to read that necessary .PDF you just sent them.

      But all silliness aside, download it, you open it and you read it and it's an OK terms of use document. Disappointingly enough there is no short summary at the start, so be ready to read all of it. And I mean be ready because this document takes about ten to fifteen minutes to read.


      Not easilly accessable

      Now, back to the main website, and directly notice how it doesn't provide Adobe’s most used Terms of Use documents at the top of this website. Instead one actually has to look up the specific document at the list of licenses below the General Terms of Use. And let me tell you that that is a long list on the main page, so better be smart enough to pop-up the search function or else you'll be straining your eyes to find what you're looking for.

      I looked for the words "Flash Player" and this search function got me six different results called "Flash Player". The first one is hidden under the "downloads" tab of the website - you'll never see it unless you put a little effort into it - a third hit is the same as the second hit and the last hit is the same as the first hit but this time it's a "Download" tab at the bottom of the Website.


      But the first interesting hit is found under the title "Services" and is listed as "Adobe Premium Features for Flash Player", which surprisingly enough links you to an actual website instead of a .PDF file.

      - http://www.adobe.com/products/eulas/tou_premium_features_for_flash_player.html

      This takes about seven to ten minutes to read and it's another fairly standard Terms of Use document. Again with no summary at the start of the document and again only in English, and also it probably isn’t necessary to read unless you got the Premium version of Flash Player.


      Terrible to navigate

      http://blog.lmorchard.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/too-long-read-anyway.jpgThe third hit for "Flash Player" is a link just called "Flash Player", in this case listed under “Software Products” and it notes to be version "12". This is probably the most important document for anyone agreeing with the Terms of Use for their new Flash Player. Clicking the link downloads the following PDF file:

      - http://wwwimages.adobe.com/www.adobe.com/content/dam/Adobe/en/legal/licenses-terms/pdf/Fla sh%20Player_12.0.pdf

      And if you don't open it in Internet Explore or in Chrome browser, but, let's say for instance in Firefox or just download the document and open it on your desktop, you start at the absolute top of the document. Which is in some form of Arabic... And there is no Table of Content to help you out... And the entire document is enormous and in different languages... And the search term "Nederlands" - that's how Dutch people call their own language, and me being Dutch I’d like to start there - doesn't give any results. Where the search term "English" however has just two results, both in the same sentence of rule no.12 of the English version of the Terms of Use. And not at the top of the actual English language version...

      This is again a fairly standard Terms of Use, but this time there is allot of "you can't use this product under these conditions" language used. Reading this document takes about seven to ten minutes and it also doesn't come with a summary at the start.

      But search a word in your preferred langauge, scroll to the start of the chapter, read it, agree with it in your mind and go back to the main website because there is still one more hit under the search term "Flash Player".


      To many documents with the same name

      The last actual document that is linked is listed under the title "Mobile, runtime, and touch app products" and links to "Adobe Flash Player". Implying that there is a difference between Adobe Flash Player and just Flash Player. And also could start off a lot of confusion if I searched "Adobe Flash Player", instead of just "Flash Player". So this document isn't of any interest to you if you were looking for your Flash Player 12.0 update Terms of Use. But if you happen to open it, prepare yourself for the same problem as the last document. Because it also starts in Arabic, has no table of contents, it gives 4 results of the search term of English in the middle of the English language chapter and again no results for the term “Nederlands”. This document takes about seven to ten minutes to read as well.


      No form of contact

      All in all adding the time it takes me to find and read and agree to ALL documents that are somehow linked to the Flash Player Terms of Use it would costs the average person about an hour to find and read everything. And to me this is allot of effort to know what the hell you are agreeing with when you just want to tick that little box you had presented about an hour ago. And every time my Flash Player, or Acrobat Reader or support tool for one of my Adobe designer Software asks for a update I have to go through this time after time after time again. And I’m assuming that no-one ever does this because else any sensible company would put some effort into changing it.


      So that’s why I have decided to write this three page long document and emailed it to Adobe. Since I figured someone has to be the first. But that is until you discover that Adobe doesn’t have a Customers support email address. Everything that they do that involves Support is directed to their Adobe Community Forums. For which I need a account to access and post to, for which I need to comply with another set of Terms of Use, (10 - 15 minutes of read)

      - https://adobeid-na1.services.adobe.com/renga-idprovider/pages/tos/en_US/ADOBE_MASTER

      And with their “Privacy Policy”, a link that directs you to a preselected language website and offers you another seven to ten minutes of reading material.




      In conclusion I’m going to make a final bold assumption here. Because no-one ever bothers to read the Terms of Use, Adobe couldn't be bothered to make these contracts presentable in a user friendly fashion. Instead whenever you want to download a new update, Adobe just offers a link to the main Terms of Use website and hope you just tick the damn “I Agree” box already. And that is just an absolute disgrace for your company’s legal face, especially for a company like Adobe that frequently presents large and serieus Terms of Use Documents to it’s user base and demands them to agree or get out.

        • 1. Re: Feedback on Adobe's Term of Use Policy
          Mike M Level 6

          I'm not being a smart alec, but... have you ever had a lengthy conversation with an copyright attorney... about what they do?


          I know two personally. One because we went to school together decades ago, and the other because he is on retainer for a client of mine.

          What you see in the terms of use (End User License Agreement) IS the revised version... I've never seen the FULL thing, but I'd assume it could hold it's own with the Affordable Care Act, in three areas:

          1. The overall number of pages.... necessary or unnecessary.

          2. The amount of sense it would make to the average person.

          3. The number of people in the world who have actually read it.


          I've read nearly all of the license agreements for every product I own from Adobe. Mostly because I have to answer questions about things like Norton, McAfee and Google Chrome being bundled and people say they never agreed to it... Well, by installing anything downloaded from here... they did.


          BTW. You can'T install ANY legal, legitimate software from ANY company at all without agreeing to terms of use.

          Here's where I will be a smart alec... If you have a problem with that... then you need to stop using computers immediately and permanently, or you're going to have a stroke from the self inflicted stress.