Multi-disciplinary British artist Stuart Semple has organized an “amazingly passionate team of geeks” to attack “corporate overlords.” In Semple’s view, that “overlord” is Adobe, and the solution is Abode, a new Kickstarter project designed to build apps to compete against Adobe.
What is Abode?
Semple describes Abode as, “a new home for your creativity.” The Abode project will rely upon the “team of geeks” to build a brand-new suite of “world-class design and photography tools,” which Semple admits have an “uncanny similarity” to the tools that longtime Adobe Creative Cloud users have been “indoctrinated in.”
While Abode’s software doesn’t exist yet, plans are in place to create ONdesign, illustrateIT, photoPOP, and Impress. In case the logos below aren’t obvious enough, and they might not be to people who aren’t living under the supposed thumb of “corporate overlords,” these Abode apps aim to replicate Adobe InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, and Express, the latter of which was updated earlier today.
Freedom from Subscriptions
No doubt a significant catalyst for Abode is that Adobe infamously moved to a subscription model for its creative applications in 2013, a move which perhaps angered some customers but has led to tremendous revenue for Adobe.
Abode aims to receive a one-time fee from its users and then supply free updates to its apps for life. Abode’s suite of apps will be compatible with macOS, iOS, Windows, and Android.
The Artist Behind Abode
PetaPixel rarely focuses on the individual behind Kickstarter campaigns, but in the case of Abode, Stuart Semple’s career is relevant to the motivation behind Abode itself.
One of Semple’s most prominent claims to fame is a fiery fight against artist Anish Kapoor over the use of color. Kapoor is a famous sculptor and creator of the well-known Cloud Gate in Chicago, which is known as “The Bean.” Kapoor is also known for his work with Vantablack, a substance known as the “blackest black” paint because it reflects almost no light. Kapoor’s studio has an exclusive license to use Vantablack, an arrangement that has drawn the ire of many fellow artists, including Semple.
In response, Semple has created what he calls “the pinkest pink” paint, which is available for everyone to purchase, “except Anish Kapoor.”
“Note: By adding this product to your cart you confirm that you are not Anish Kapoor, you are in no way affiliated to Anish Kapoor, you are not purchasing this item on behalf of Anish Kapoor or an associate of Anish Kapoor. To the best of your knowledge, information and belief this paint will not make its way into the hands of Anish Kapoor,” Semple writes on the product page for his pink paint.
Semple’s involvement in social and cultural causes has been a significant part of his career. Semple’s public fights against corporate control over artistic freedom are essential when considering Abode, which is not just marketed as a creative suite of software that people can pay for once and use forever, it’s a project dripping in ire for Adobe. Everything about Abode, including its name, logo, and proposed applications, screams disdain for Adobe.
Abode: Parody or Product?
While Abode draws heavy inspiration from Adobe for its branding and proposed product design, it appears to veer from parody insofar as it is a commercial enterprise.
The Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute defines parody as follows: ” A parody takes a piece of creative work — such as art, literature, or film — and imitates it in an exaggerated, comedic fashion. Parody often serves as a criticism or commentary on the original work, the artist who created it, or something otherwise connected to the work. In the United States, parody is protected by the First Amendment as a form of expression. However, since parodies rely heavily on the original work, parodists rely on the fair use exception to combat claims of copyright infringement. The fair use exception is governed by the factors enumerated in section 107 of the Copyright Act: (1) the purpose and character of the use; (2) the nature of the original work; (3) the amount and substantiality of the original work used; and (4) the effect on the market value of the original work. Generally, courts are more likely to find that a parody qualifies as fair use if its purpose is to serve as a social commentary and not for purely commercial gain.”
Of particular importance is the final sentence, “Generally, courts are more likely to find that a parody qualifies as fair use if its purpose is to serve as a social commentary and not for purely commercial gain.” Abode toes the line here and arguably, given Semple’s background and prior work, provides social commentary while seeking commercial gain.
In a section of the Kickstarter campaign, Semple talks about “the money side.”
“To make amazing word class software costs money. There’s no point doing this unless it’s really really good. The geeks are being extremely generous but they will need to be paid. So your pledge is going to be used to make sure they can live whilst they do the work,” the campaign page explains.
He also expresses the hope that the eventual public release of Abode will be affordable to most people, “less than $150 for a lifetime license.”
Whether Abode is a for-profit venture under the guise of satire will be an interesting question that a court may need to consider.
Concerning legal risks, in the campaign’s Frequently Asked Questions section, Semple tackles the topic: Are you going to get sued by Adobe?
“I’ve not been sued yet, if you scroll down the main page and watch the ‘New Reality’ video you’ll see an IP lawyer talking about some of my previous work. I think everyone knows where I stand on issues like this. Saying that I’m a contemporary artist and use the medium of satire in my work as a form of social critique,” Semple says.
Democratizing Artistic Software and the Fight Against Subscriptions
Companies taking a stand against the software industry’s shift toward subscription models isn’t new. Developers like DxO and Affinity have specifically stuck to one-time purchase licenses. While one-time purchases used to be the norm, companies that continue to use that business model can now market their approach as a selling point, primarily because companies like Adobe and, more recently, Capture One have shifted toward subscriptions.
“For a long time, we owned the software we used. Sadly, that is a thing of the past, we now rent the tools of our trade,” explains the Abode Kickstarter campaign.
“This means that whenever the landlord feels like it, they can put the rent up,” Semple continues.
Abode isn’t simply aiming to be an Adobe alternative; it intends to fight against Adobe’s way of doing business. “It’s time that we made and owned our own tools. To be free we need to own our means of production,” Semple explains.
Pricing and Availability
Early bird backers can lock in a price for the Abode creative suite for £39, which is about $49. This “Home Builder — First Mover” backer option includes the complete software download suite, lifetime free upgrades, and a “fuzzy warm feeling” for having “helped the art and design community.”
The “First Mover” backing option is nearly gone, with 999 of the 1,000-backer allotment consumed. The next backer option is £59, or about $74, and includes the same features as the “First Mover” option, albeit at a slightly higher price.
Those fully committed to the fight to own software can shell out around $160 for the software, an Abode-branded hoodie in black or white, and having their name featured in the software’s credits.
Semple hopes that his “team of geeks” will have beta versions of the Abode apps ready by February 2024. After an iterative development process, Semple expects Abode’s public release in early 2025.
At the time of publication, with 44 days remaining in the campaign, Abode has eclipsed its funding goal by more than $12,000 and has over 1,200 backers.
Disclaimer: Make sure you do your own research into any crowdfunding project you’re considering backing. While we aim to only share legitimate and trustworthy campaigns, there’s always a real chance that you can lose your money when backing any crowdfunded project.
Image credits: Abode