60% of Photoshop Users are PIRATES!

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me.
We pillage, we plunder, we rifle, and loot,
Drink up, me ‘earties, yo ho.
We kidnap and ravage and don’t give a hoot,
Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.

So here it is… the one week results from our previous poll on software piracy. In that short time, we’ve had nearly 500 photographers cast their votes and the outcome is quite interesting. It looks like Adobe’s high-end photo editing software packages (like Photoshop and Lightroom) are hot items in the pirated software market.

I’m not here to make judgments or anything — I’m just presenting the results from our little study. I’d also like to mention that my computer is 100% free of pirated or “borrowed” software and that the poll results are no indication of my own habits.

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Each of the results below have two graphs. The first is a measure of how many of us use a particular piece of software: users versus non-users. The second graph takes the users and splits them into pirates and non-pirates. Also, I’m going to leave the polls running for a while to see how things progress over time.


58% Pirates

Wow… I expected the number of Photoshop pirates to be high, but not quite that high! 58%?!? So for every legal copy of Photoshop, there’s a pirated counterpart… and then some! An equally interesting observation from the poll is that 87% of the people who read this blog are Photoshop users of some sort. I’m sure we represent a higher density population of Photoshoppers, but my guess is that well over 50% of digital photographers have access to Photoshop.


55% Pirates

Although Lightroom isn’t quite as popular as Photoshop with the general public (with only 58% of the voters), the users of Lightroom are just as willing to pirate the software. I assumed that Lightroom would be less pirated because it’s newer software and because the price is slightly lower than that of Photoshop. I assumed wrong. Then again, if you’re going to pirate a copy of Photoshop, why not Lightroom too?


38% Pirates

We have quite a few “other software” users in the mix too. I didn’t break down the polls into every piece of software on the market, so I clumped everything other than Photoshop and Lightroom into this category. Interestingly, the rate of piracy (at 38%) is much lower than with the high-end Adobe products. I can’t imagine that other software would be more difficult to steal, so this lower number is probably a factor of popularity, price, and availability.


0% Pirates

And out of the four groups in the poll, this was the only one with absolutely no piracy. Go figure. I’m actually impressed at how many people use free and open source software for photo editing — 64%! And only 19% of those are using the software that came with their cameras. The rest is all open source and freeware/shareware. Good for you guys! Although, there’s probably some percentage of free software users who have pirated copies of commercial software.

What do you guys think? Are the results surprising? Should Adobe care about this? I’m sure they’re aware of Photoshop and Lightroom being pirated, but I wonder what their position is on the topic.

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110 thoughts on “60% of Photoshop Users are PIRATES!

  1. chon

    The figures presented in the article are not correctly presented.
    They should be presented per region.
    I live in Thailand. Here piracy is at an estimated 95%.
    If you want to get a legal copy of anything, you have to get it online and use a credit card.
    Nobody bothers, as it available in any shop in any city for $5.
    Same goes for Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos…etc.
    Nobody feels bad about it.

  2. kenholmz

    I have a grudge against Kodak. Although I was able to tranfer pics from camera to computer under Linux (with Digikam and Gphoto) I could find nothing that worked under W2K, which my wife uses. I ended up downloading and installing Easy Share software which is bloated beyond comprehension. I had found FOSS utilities for Canon camers and a couple of others, but nothing for Kodak. Oh well, the camera was a gift to my wife and she likes what she can now do.

  3. Dave

    Great article! I’ve always wondered about this. I had pirated Photoshop at home for years, but never felt comfortable using it for paid work. I never used it much at home. I always felt like I should bite the bullet and buy the design suite, but every time I thought about it, talked about it, a friend would talk me out of it and offer a pirated copy.

    I finally decided to get all non- pirated software for my home computer last year. This time I didn’t breather a word about it before I bought it. I started by buying an older copy of Photoshop with an unused serial number on Ebay. Then I bought the upgrade to the Adobe Suite I wanted. It saved me about $400. A few months later I landed a freelance job coloring comics. I wish I’d gone legal 5 years ago.

  4. Vasileios Anagnostopoulos

    I have never used photoshop. I have seen it and it is very heavy. I am a linux/bsd (on my desktops) user and I maintain my OSS windows laptop. The image processing sofftware I use is

    (gnome/kde defaults for quick photo viewing)

  5. James

    I know many many people who use Photoshop and not one have ever paid for it, the only time I have used a legal version was at work. But of course it stems wider than just Photoshop. Very few people buy software and as I work in I.T people ask me to get hold of programs for them, without any thought that is is breaking the law. Course I say no as I moved over to Linux and Open source about 4 years ago now. I do let these people know of the legal and free alternatives, but they look at me asif I am speaking another language. Shame, well lock them up in jail or fine their asses, they are after all committing a crime.

  6. Allen

    Price is obviously a big factor in users choosing not to pay for the software they use. I’ve often wondered why Adobe and other companies don’t offer a personal use or non-commercial license (with little or no support) at a much lower price to encourage those who are willing to pay but can’t afford full price to buy their software. Back when I was using Windows, I would have gladly paid something close to the academic price for legal copies of some of the software I couldn’t afford or couldn’t justify the price.

    However, for me this no longer matters as I’ve switched entirely to Linux for my home computers and most software companies refuse to support Linux. Fortunately, GIMP and other open source software has proven to be good enough to meet my needs and I can live without those companies.

  7. Marcos

    I have seen some post with people proving that this Pirates are not bad for Adobe because Adobe can make profit of it anyway.

    It may be true, but it don´t matter. It is not from Adobe they are stealing but from us. All that pay for PS are paying for those who didn’t and all user of Gimp are getting less support because someone choices to steal instead of using what have been given to them. It is a shame, but next time you see someone doing that remember who they are stealing from, it is not Adobe, it is YOU!

  8. Dawson Jones

    Because cracking it is so simple, I cracked Dreamweaver and PS (to test) in less than 5 minutes.

  9. Arnold L. Johnson

    It is funny that there is such quite desperation to possess software you either can’t afford or don’t want to pay for. I am willing to bet most who get it, or must have it don’t really need or use it. One day Photoshop will be an online only app and paypal will be your friend.

    Gimp is really useful. I also use Xara Xtreme , Krita and mtPaint. What’s Photpshop?

  10. Marcos

    Yes. I know it is. People don’t support Gimp because PS is better, but it is a kind of cyclic problem here. If home users like you would use more Gimp other than use *stolen* PS then Gimp would be better. I don’t want to sound rude, I just want to make people think about it. I know that it requires a change of mind. I change of the way that we use software.

    Is PS really better if you have to pay for it? If yes, then just pay for it. It if fair.
    If not and you just use it illegally then it will not be Adobe that is loosing here. It is me and all people who are being nice to you and giving their time and skills so you could have a good tool for a fair price.

    Price? Yes. Gimp is not free. It is paid by your supporting of just using it and help making it better.
    I think it is a fair price. What do you think?

  11. Charles van Dijk

    Being the professional computer people. The gentlemen at Adobe must be fully aware how easy it is to crack the activate procedure. I did the same for years till I became competent in photoshop and people started to pay me money for my work. I could not afford not to have a legal copy. I see it as a classical case of puppy dog selling (How do you get rid of a puppy, you let it stay overnight at a friend’s house). I did buy the creative suite bundle and I think it is the best money I have ever spent. Photoshop, Indesign and Illustrator are bundled together for $ 1450- . Regards

  12. mike3

    This goes to show just how unfairly expensive the software is. If they were to drop the price, more people would buy it, so then in the end they might not lose as much money as they fear, and may in fact gain more money.

    It’s really hard if you want to start your own business, then you need to get legitimate software and with the prices so high it creates a formidable entry barrier requiring you to be upperclass rich to get started. What a way of keeping the rich rich and the poor poor. This is WRONG!!!!

  13. germz

    Yeah I agree with Yourmom… Everyone I’ve met has a pirated photoshop… I mean it’s so easy to pirate it only takes a minute once the software has been downloaded. I bet if I were to download it right now I’d have a photoshop cs3 advanced in my pc in less that 30 minutes.

    I’m not saying that I have a pirated software.. I’m just saying 99.9% percent of people have a pirated adobe program, the other .1% are LIARS.

  14. Big Salary

    Adobe has made some fine aquistions lately. I believe Macromedia did a better job with open source like working with the Eclipse project, creating developer editions of server products, an allowing limited use of non-production applications. Hopefully Adobe wil survey their portfolio and notice the happier users of former Macromedia products.

  15. Joe

    Well in my opinion people should give chance to other similar tools, even if they’re not industry standard as Photoshop is. For example Pixel is a very nice “clone” of Photoshop and even works on Linux and other operating systems. http://www.kanzelsberger.com … well it’s not exactly Photoshop, but very similar and it’s better to try it out with reasonable price, then pirating overpriced Photoshop…

  16. mittens

    I find it amusing to see so many concerned “Adobe should do this and this” comments here. Whatever Adobe is doing is working quite well for them, wouldn’t you say? Photoshop is the industry standard, the single most used piece of digital editing software. And professionals have no choice but to shell out the bucks if they want as much as a fighting chance.
    Adobe doesn’t mind having freeloading pirates, they have judged, and rightly so, maintaining industry standard status to be far more valuable.

    If they really wanted to stop piracy, they would. Think of the drug market– why yes, it is immoral, and illegal. But if the ones administering the whole mafia weren’t making massive amounts of profit, perhaps then we wouldn’t have it.

    Adobe’s happy to get a monopoly on the market, amateurs are happy to get their free software, and avid goody-two-shoes get a pat on the head and a warm fuzzy feeling. Everybody wins.
    So there’s really nothing to complain about.

  17. Strider

    Everybody wins? What about the people who make cheaper software? They aren’t winning, they are losing money because people who are in their market choose to pirate PS instead.

  18. Lois R

    Everyone is talking about the expensive full-scale Photoshop. What about the very INexpensive “Photoshop Elements”?
    When I give presentations at our local clubs, I always use PSE and encourage folks to buy that — rather than PS. For a tenth the price you get most of the features. I never crack PS anymore, although I’ve had it for years, because PSE is so good.

  19. Lolita Narag-Layugan

    i do agree with all the views and ideas comparing the open source versus the pirated photoshop….we can use photoshop if and only their price would go lower and by that time in return they can gain more money and profit afterall and the increase of legal users will be improved rather than the users pirating it.just lower the cost and everybody will avail of it….by then you can improved the percentages of those valid users of the product..

  20. Lauri

    We have published a web based photo editing and drawing app at http://www.sumopaint.com. It is totally free to use and has all basic features from Photoshop and some unique tools too. There’s no need for PS soon, cause we are updating more features almost every week :)

  21. Ajith Edassery

    At times I wonder whether these photo editing/imaging tools are rightly priced. $600 or $700 may be too high for amateurs though if you are a professional user that’s reasonable.

    I used a licensed version of photoshop’s trimmed down version (Photo Deluxe or so) sometime ago but can’t afford the latest full version. I am using the open source GIMP now, though it’s the worst in userfriendliness it has tremendous power if you are ready to digg out its features :)

    I am rather new here. Do you have any comparitive reviews of this tools here on this blog?


  22. Ash

    The thing that really gets me is that the vast majority of photoshop users don’t really need it, unless you are editing or desiging in a professional capacity there really is no need for software such as photoshop, a previous post suggested paintshop pro as a good alternative and he/she is completely right, unless it is absolutely nessisary, alternatives are available for casual users. I can whole heartedly admit that i have had pirated copies of photoshop and flash, I am a freelance graphic designer and animatior and as such i can’t afford to pay €600 for photoshop and €400 for flash, even when i have bought flash legally in the past the ugrade charge from say, 8 to CS4 is still pretty steep. If in a position where i had my own studio, i would not hesitate to pay for these products or if they were more hionestly priced

  23. Hendry Lee

    At the least, Photoshop community can be as huge as it is now because everyone, including people who can’t afford it, are able to work with it, spread news about it, create tutorials, etc.

    There is always the good side of every story. I think. :)

  24. Life is Colourful

    I am not surprised with the number of Pirates for Photoshop. I sometimes feel they have made it such an expensive tool, that many of us like me, found GIMP as very good open source alternative for Photoshop.

  25. Kim

    I have to say that doesn’t surprise me. I’m enrolled in a design program at college and I’d say that most students (probably 80% or more) pirate Photoshop (and other Adobe programs). The educational pricing isn’t bad (I think the prices depend on the school, though… I know some top art colleges offer the entire Adobe Suite for $300 or less), but it’s still not very affordable for some students who are having financial trouble. My version of Photoshop is legit, thankfully, but some of my other design software is not because I just can’t afford it currently. I am using it to learn and not to make money. Plus, I am paying tuition and that, in turn, pays for licenses for the school lab which I use. I am not a big fan of piracy, but I do think that if you’re using the software to learn and not to make a profit, there is no problem if you really cannot afford the educational pricing and will buy the product in the future when you’re working in the design industry or wherever. I think if you’re using the software for commercial purposes then you should definitely buy it. Just my two cents.

  26. HB

    I’m suprised that the number of pirated copies are this low. Non of my friends (expect my graphic dssign teacher) spends $600 dollars on a piece of software. High school kids in my town drive range rover and M5′s here, the worst car on senior lot is probably a new jetta. Is not that our parents can’t afford photoshop, it’s jus wayyyyyy too easy to get it for free, easier than opening my mouth and ask my dad. Someone dropped a diamond ring and got on a NYC taxi and drove away, would u keep the ring or would u risk your life and chase after the taxi?

    so for high school kids, we either never use photoshop, or downloaded a copy for free.

    one reason that your poll is biased is that people who actually paid 600 bucks are more likely to vote just to justify their spending.

  27. Nancy

    Software piracy is becoming a huge issue for software developers. In the case of photoshop maybe they wouldn’t have all these pirates using their photo editing software is the price was lower.

  28. Lucas

    Anyone who doesn’t pirate for personal use is retarded. Photoshop CS4 is 699 freakin dollars! God, for that price it should come with a complimentary blowjob from a porn star of your choice.

  29. Jeff

    The thing with photoshop is the cheaper version is still $699. For $699 I can build a whole new computer. For the $1000 CS4 my computer would scream. I think that unless I win the lottery, Photoshop Elements or GIMP are my only choices. Adobe needs to get a clue about the real world.

  30. Albert

    Wow, shocking statistics, was never aware of how popular adobe photoshop was for a privated program. It even out weighed legal sales!

  31. Rehan Ahmed

    This is definitely a fascinating article. I have had many conversations with friends about pirating and then buying Adobe products. I never considered the implications that there is a huge community those are using Pirates Software , Not just Adobe also other open source too … Well great survay brian

  32. Tony Lee

    I have to agree that PS is a bit overpriced. There are comparable programs that will accomplish the same or similar tasks.

    The plus side of purchasing a legal copy is the fact that you can have clear conscience.

  33. Matthew L.

    The thing is, can anybody pay $700 for photoshop? I didn’t technically pirate it, I download the demo and type in random codes until it lets me in. But are any of you seriously surprised that 60% of users are piraters? It’s ADOBE that has driven users to this. If they could charge a reasonable price, then nobody would bother to pirate it.

  34. Tom

    I started out using PS Elements, when I needed the flexibility of masking, etc. I moved up to PS CS2, purchased direct from Adobe, I’ve also upgraded to CS4. While I had a discount that allowed me to purchase for about $575, still a lot to shell out, I purchased it. I looked at it from the perspective of 1.) being legal 2.) I intended to sell my photography, so I wanted to be legal. I have since purchased LR 2, again straight from Adobe. As a NAPP member there are several discounts that become available. While there will never be a half price sale, if you want a professional tool, you’ll pay a professional price as others have mentioned. Addobe does offer a product for the casual user who wants to do a little touch up, it’s called Photoshop Elements, it sells for under $100. Someone mentioned the DRM that Adobe uses, I’ve never had a problem to re-enter my code if I re-format my computer. I don’t understand all the excuses people use to pirate this software.

  35. Jack

    I can see people pirating Photoshop I mean come on, a $600 price tag is just too much for such a program. It’s not like it costs a lot of money to produce!

  36. Lynda

    I found these statistics and the replying photographer’s comments very interesting!

    I am not a photographer, but I have had a long career working with graphics in the fashion industry. Through that experience and observations I have noticed that most people don’t even realize that they can recolor a clip art or combine 2 images to make their own customized one. Graphic programs like Photoshop are intimidating to most computer users unless they are professionally trained and now I see that even professional photographers resist buying PS because of the price.

    I found this blog in a search looking for statistics on PS users. I am doing a market analysis for my business because I have developed an easy-to-learn-and use graphics software program named Graphics-Toolbox. Even though PS is the industry standard for photographers, it is not a graphic software solution for the average computer user. I had hoped to figure out a % of computer users around the world that use PS. Has anyone seen a statistic like that?

    Graphics-Toolbox may also interest some of you to supplement your existing programs. It is fast and easy for tonal color changes and grouping colors/ reducing colors. You can check it out on my website at http://www.greatsoftwaretools.com.

    Thanks for your help!

  37. Tim A.

    I recently purchased PSCS4 even though I am not a professional photographer only because people were starting to show interesting in purchasing my work and also because I will be doing a wedding (though it’s very casual) this weekend. I essentially figured, if I’m going to make ANY money off my photography, I should be using legitimate copies of any software I use to edit the photos. I bought Lightroom 2 a while ago so I was covered there but there are some stuff that you just can’t do in LR…

    It IS ridiculously expensive for the amateur or hobbyist though. I wish they had a better pricing scheme. Like $300 (cost of LR2) for personal use limited to 3 computers or something while the $700 is for enterprise use or something along those lines. Of course then it’s a matter of when are you for home and when are you for enterprise and so on…but I think it might decrease the number of copies pirated.

    Then again, a friend of mine who graduated with a degree in design told me her professor at college was basically telling the students to pirate PS since Adobe doesn’t seem to mind…


  38. John Jacobs

    Somehow that does not surprise me at all. I have to use photoshop for work so it is sort of a requirement that I have a legal copy. But I’ve got friends and even my brother has an illegal copy of photoshop so I know there is a ton of it out there.

  39. tonym

    first off, love the picture of the cat! All that really is missing is the eye patch lol. And second, I’m really surprised at the percentages of the illegal copies, you would figure the number would be something like 70-30

  40. Nate

    “Brian Auer is a photography enthusiast from San Diego, California. He’s also the guy behind the Epic Edits Weblog. As a hobbyist photographer since 2003, his passion has been to constantly improve his photography skill set, to share his own knowledge with others, and to become an integral part of the photographic community.”

    Maybe Brian should start by holding the camera to his eye

  41. Paul Parkinson

    I decided to download both CS2 and Lightroom. I treated that process as a shareware evaluation. I know neither of them are shareware but I wasn’t going to drop ~£1000 on two pieces of software I wasn’t sure I really needed.

    So, what happened? The programs were dutifully installed, I played with them both and then bought Lightroom outright and decided I needed almost all of PS but not ALL of it, so I bought PS Elements.

    I’m a happy bunny. Adobe made two sales to someone who knew he was going to be a happy client. If the “hooky” software wasn’t available I would NOT have bought either of them and gone to GIMP or Paint.net or stayed with Canon’s own apps. This is an example of piracy INCREASING sales…

  42. Bill

    That is so funny…..I use photoshop essentials and I’ve been wanting to upgrade to the real deal. I wouldn’t feel right pirating a copy though…I dunno why….I just wouldn’t.

    Great article.

  43. dave

    If you pirated photoshop, you’re a criminal. I’ve paid for CS1 and all the upgrades since. I have a clean conscience and you’re a dirty filthy terrorist criminal. I’d gladly pay double what I paid because it’s just the cost of doing business and the software pays for itself. Adobe doesn’t care that much about pirates because they’ll never become pro like me.

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