Adobe shut down cloud services in Venezuela

The internet is abuzz with news that Adobe are shutting down their cloud services in Venezuela as of October 28th, 2019. The move has been taken in order to comply with an Executive Order issued by Donald Trump.

American eagle

Customers have until October 28th to download any content stored in their Adobe accounts. After that date, accounts will be de-activated and content lost.

The ban impacts all Adobe services, paid and free, and Adobe say they will not be issuing refunds for any purchases being cut short as the US Government have ordered “the cessation of all activity with the entities including no sales, service, support, refunds, credits, etc.”

Is this legal? Can Adobe, or any organisation, terminate access to a product during the paid-for term and refuse to issue a refund? Now is a good time to look through the Adobe EULAs, both direct and via volume licensing agreements.

Have Adobe over-reacted?

I’m not a lawyer but I’m also not sure that Adobe’s actions are totally justified. Executive Order 13884 is titled “Blocking Property of the Government of Venezuela” and, to me at least, seems aimed at blocking US companies from doing business with the government of Venezuela, not all its 32 million citizens.

Another interesting point to note is that the Executive Order was issued on August 5th but Adobe seem to have only just taken this action, over 2 months later. What has caused the sudden action?

Impact

First of all, this will have a huge negative impact on countless businesses, large and small, across Venezuela. With people unable to use Photoshop, InDesign, Behance (and the several other Adobe applications that have become de riguer in many industries these days), photographers, designers, marketing departments etc. will all find it nigh on impossible to function.

Secondly, this throws up some very big, pertinent, and thorny, questions about Software as a Service (SaaS) and its implications for consumer rights. If a company can shut down our access to software that we’ve bought and paid for, on the basis of a political spat, what does that mean with regards to the erosion of rights? Does the ever increasing rise of the cloud mean that users, in their jobs and in their everyday lives, become ever more beholden to geo-political currents and whims of those in charge? If so, is this acceptable? What, if anything, can software purchasers do to fight back?

As well as eroding people’s remaining trust in Adobe, it also seems likely this will result in a resurgence of pirating of Adobe software – if people/orgs need it to continue working, they’re going to find a way of accessing it!

What’s next?

The Executive Order applies to all US companies so, if Adobe’s interpretation is correct, that means we will surely see Microsoft, Amazon, Salesforce, Google et al. all issue similar proclamations that their software must stop being used in Venezuela too. That could bring the country to a near-standstill with practically no email, no cloud services etc. being available. As I’m sceptical that Adobe are correct, I doubt we’ll see anything of the sort – but will certainly be keeping an eye out…

Further Reading

Executive Order – https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/13884.pdf

Adobe Help Page – https://helpx.adobe.com/la/x-productkb/policy-pricing/executive-order-venezuela.html

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