Do Adobe policies promote software piracy?

On visiting Adobe’s web site I found that a downloadable upgrade to my licenced copy of Dreamweaver would apparently cost $199.  This was a price I was prepared to pay, so I added the item to my shopping cart in the Adobe Store and headed for the checkout.  At this point I discovered that I was in an Adobe Store for North American customers only and would be obliged to buy from the Adobe UK Store, where the price had risen to $248 ($285 including Value Added Tax (VAT)), which I was not prepared to pay.  Following a little digging around on prices of 3 Adobe products, I found that, for European customers, Adobe’s prices excluding taxes are up to double North American prices for the same downloadable product.

With a home in Poland, I know that I could well go to the Warsaw computer market and buy a pirated copy of Dreamweaver for 20 to 50 złoty (approximately $7 to $20).  This led me to reflect on whether such discriminatory pricing policies actually encourage software piracy….

The Products

The following products were researched in comparing prices of Adobe products in Europe versus North America:

  • Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 Downloadable Upgrade
  • Adobe Creative Suite 4 Web Premium Downloadable Full Version
  • Adobe Acrobat Standard version 9 Downloadable Upgrade

Basis of Comparison

All comparisons, which were made on 30 December 2009:

  • exclude taxes
  • are at exchange rates current on 30 December 2009
  • are for Windows downloads

English Language Versions

The comparative costs are tabulated below:

Product USA/Canada UK Luxembourg Ireland
Cost Cost Increase Cost Increase Cost Increase
Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 Upgrade $199 $248 24% $310 56% $310 56%
Adobe Creative Suite 4 Web Premium $1,699 $2,113 24% $2,660 57% $2,660 57%
Acrobat 9 Standard Upgrade $99 $147 48% $185 87% $185 87%
Product USA/Canada France Germany
Cost Cost Increase Cost Increase
Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 Upgrade $199 $310 56% $310 56%

Much to my surprise, UK wasn’t the most expensive.  In Eurozone countries you can expect to be charged up to 87% more than in the US for an upgrade to Acrobat 9 Standard.

French Language Versions

On encountering similar pricing differences on an earlier occasion, I wrote to the software supplier asking for an explanation.  A key reason, I was told, for the difference in prices was to provide me with a user experience in my own language.  It seems to me that there’s little difference in the cost of producing English US and English UK versions.  However, perhaps a French language version would be more costly for a US company to produce and that a price differential might be reasonable in this case.

Interestingly, you can buy French language versions of Adobe software from their North American and French stores.  Here’s the comparison table:

Product USA/Canada France
English French Cost Increase
Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 Upgrade $199 $199 $400 101%
Adobe Creative Suite 4 Web Premium $1,699 $1,699 $3,052 80%
Acrobat 9 Standard Upgrade $99 $99 $185 87%

As you see, the French and English versions sell at the same price in North America, but can cost double the North American price in France!

How can the cost differences be explained?

Distribution Costs

Seems unlikely that there should be any significant difference in distribution costs – all products and prices are for downloads.

Language Versions

English and French language versions are the same price in the North American Store, so this doesn’t explain the difference.


Taxes are excluded from the comparisons, so this doesn’t provide an explanation.

Exchange Rates

Seems unlikely.  Pricing on the European sites could be in USD if Adobe chose. Purchase is by credit card and the purchaser would bear the exchange rate costs.

Adobe Pricing Policy

I can’t see any other obvious explanation.  Adobe are selling at increased margin in Europe.

How does this contribute to Software Piracy?

It seems to me that consumers on becoming aware of the rapaciousness of Adobe’s pricing policy are likely to feel abused and are consequently less likely to respect Adobe as a business or their intellectual property rights.

There is perhaps also a comparison with taxation, where lower tax rates decrease tax avoidance and actually increase the total tax take.  Similar principles may apply – reasonable pricing policies will have consumers like me buy Adobe’s products.  Where I, or others, feel the prices and policies are unreasonable, we’ll avoid paying them either by resorting to software piracy or by seeking other products.

Did I buy a $10 pirate copy?

The Warsaw Computer Market (Giełda Komputerowa) hasn’t been open since I made the price comparison.  Will I go when it re-opens after the holiday season?  Sorry, I’m not telling….

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