Hi all. If you’ve heard of Adobe’s Terms of Service updates and had any questions, I did a few things this week to hopefully help out. To be honest, while I hate drama and conspiracy theorists, I’m almost glad this happened because it forced me to become a bit more educated on not only Adobe’s Terms of Service (TOS), but also a lot of others that I use in the industry that are in some ways worse.

If you haven’t heard of this change, I’m jealous in a way. I hate drama. I’d say skip this and don’t bother. But I actually do think it’s educational and you can learn something more about it, without participating in the drama. But when I see comments like this, I feel it’s necessary to write something because I know the sentiment is out there.

The problem is that people read this and then actually believe this junk. That Adobe is using their photos for a nefarious purpose, not to mention the cloud stuff. It’s just false so I thought I’d write a little Q&A on the topic to help clear up some questions you may have, or didn’t even know you had. Enjoy!

Q. Does Adobe own my photos?
A. No. You own your photos. Any license Adobe requires in it’s TOS is there to operate it’s services and does not take the place (or come in front of) your ownership rights of your photos. Also, this only applies to photos you have uploaded to the cloud, not photos that have not been uploaded that sit on your local hard drives.

Q. Why does Adobe require ANY license to our photos?
A. There are various legal reasons for requiring some type of license for Adobe to store your photos on it’s servers. There are also many sharing options built in to Adobe apps and certain permission is needed for them to allow you to use these features.

Here’s an example of a Backup service many of you use (Backblaze) and in my opinion, is very similar to what Adobe is doing, just written in a MUCH better way:

You can back up, host, store, and share your own files on Backblaze. The materials you upload to Backblaze are yours and yours alone. You give us permission to use that material solely to do what’s necessary to provide our services, including storing, displaying, reproducing, and distributing those materials. We don’t sell the files you store with us to third parties, and we don’t use them for advertising purposes. We can disclose your files only in the limited circumstances described in our Privacy Notice.

Adobe’s terms are similar – just written in a much more confusing way. But when it comes down to it, a certain amount of permission is needed from you for these companies to operate the services they provide.

Q. Does Adobe use my photos to train it’s AI?
A. Yes and no. Adobe does have an option in your privacy settings that allows them to analyze your “content that is processed or stored on Adobe servers”. However, they don’t “analyze content processed or stored locally on your device”.

That said, there appears to be two categories of content analyzation. The first category is “machine learning” to help improve things like the AI based auto selections, sky replacement, object selection, background replacement, etc… But there is also the “generative AI” features that creates content for us. While your content may be used (if you allow it) for the machine learning part, Adobe states this about the other stuff:

We don’t train generative AI on customer content. We are adding this statement to our Terms of Use to reassure people that is a legal obligation on Adobe. Adobe Firefly is only trained on a dataset of licensed content with permission, such as Adobe Stock, and public domain content where copyright has expired.

Q. Does Adobe have access to my computer’s local files?
A. No.

Q. Can I change any of my data and privacy settings?
A. Yep. Log in to your Adobe account and go to “Data and Privacy Settings” and you’ll see what you can turn on and off as well as learn more about what it means. (see below)

Q. Should I turn that off?
A. It’s up to you. For me, I think of it this way. Adobe isn’t taking my photos and using them or selling them for their profit. They are using them to make the apps (that I love) better, so that I can make my photos better.

Some may think, if Adobe’s apps are getting better from my photos and they make more money if their apps get better, then shouldn’t they pay me? That’s highly impractical to think they could pay millions of people, without charging more for their apps. And if the law started to require that, then technology would probably go backwards for all software companies, or we’d pay a heck of a lot more as their costs increased.

If I’m being honest, my photos aren’t really worth anything. I have a bunch of landscape photos that millions of people have taken in the same locations. I have a bunch of wildlife photos that, while beautiful to me, are not necessarily special. People are not buying these types of photos because there are millions of them out there. So I stand to gain nothing from my photos, other than my personal enjoyment. It’s a hobby for me and I’m able to use them in my teaching as well. And even if I did sell my work, nothing Adobe is doing devalues my photos or allows them to distribute or show them.

So I’m okay with this. For me, if I can help the company that has provided me wonderful software for the past 30 years, I’m all for it. For the last 10 years they have charged me what I consider a more than reasonable price for my software ($10 a month). We all hear about this 6-7% inflation number and I’m not quite sure what world that number was created on. But I think most will agree, nearly every cost in my life has nearly had a 1.4 – 2x increase in the last 4 years, but my Adobe software has remained the same for 10 years. So for me, I agree to it. But your feelings may differ. That’s okay, and it’s a personal decision, but you asked and that’s my answer 🙂

Let’s Be Practical

I understand people’s mistrust of big corporations. To some extent I have the same. But if we’re being practical here with a bit of common sense, imagine Adobe had one of your photos that uploaded to the cloud. They decided they really like it, and would like to use it in an advertising campaign. Or worse yet… sell it without your permission (because you gave permission in the TOS) and profit from it.

It just doesn’t make sense and it would be a HORRIBLE look for the very company that is helping us create and edit our images. Listen to the uproar that was created every time they consider a price change or even a terms of service change. So imagine the chaos and mass exodus that this would create. It just doesn’t make sense and you can’t point me to an instance in which this has happened, because that’s not what their TOS was meant for. But for some reason, everyone THINKS this is exactly what is happening with their photos.

Moving Forward

All of these big corporations TOS’s have evolved in to legal-speak messes, that nobody reads. My hope is that this recent event causes not only Adobe, but everyone to be more transparent and plain-English in their Terms.

If you knew your phone was listening to you would you have accepted it? I probably wouldn’t. But nearly every person reading this did because in that very exciting moment when we unpackaged our new phone, we had no choice. Almost all of you reading this had their last conversation near their phone listened to. If you have an Amazon Alexa, and you know it was listening to every word spoken in your household, would you agree? Probably not, but we all did because again… in our excitement to unpack whatever device it was and start using it, we had no choice.

As we move forward, I hope that this helps companies become more transparent to what’s being done with our information, right down to the words we speak while in private. In fact, I actually thought Adobe’s terms were worse than they are, and that they used our photos for more than they do. In an odd way, I’m glad this happened because it forced a bit of transparency on their part, and some new education on mine.


Your Cart