Adobe Revising Terms of Use to Clarify Content Licensing, AI, and Privacy

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The confusion and anger surrounding an Adobe Terms of Use update last week caused Adobe to revisit its language and communications at large. Beyond a blog post late last week, Adobe today published another blog post, announcing plans for direct communications with customers and an updated Terms of Use.

“We recently rolled out a re-acceptance of our Terms of Use which has led to concerns about what these terms are and what they mean to our customers. This has caused us to reflect on the language we use in our Terms, and the opportunity we have to be clearer and address the concerns raised by the community,” Adobe says in a new blog post written by Scott Belsky and Dana Rao. Belsky is Adobe’s Chief Strategy Officer and Executive Vice President of Design and Emerging Products, while Rao is the company’s Executive Vice President, General Counsel, and Chief Trust Officer.

Adobe says it plans to speak to customers before rolling out changes to its Terms of Use by June 18. Customers should expect significant clarification regarding content ownership, training generative AI models, usage licenses, and content moderation.

“At Adobe, there is no ambiguity in our stance, our commitment to our customers, and innovating responsibly in this space,” writes Belsky and Rao. “We’ve never trained generative AI on customer content, taken ownership of a customer’s work, or allowed access to customer content beyond legal requirements.”

The duo continues, saying that despite the confusion surrounding language in a Terms of Use update pop-up last week, the company never planned to change the stance it describes above.

However, the company says that continuing to revise its Terms of Use is “the right thing to do.” Revisions to the Terms of Use will focus on numerous key areas, especially those that users are most concerned about right now, including how Adobe trains generative AI models, treats user content, and moderates content.

“We don’t train generative AI on customer content,” Adobe says. Although Adobe has explained that Firefly is trained using a dataset of licensed content, with permission, and public domain content, it remains an area of significant worry for Adobe app users that the company may use their content to train Firefly.

Adobe says that while user data is used to help improve some machine learning features — not generative AI tools like Firefly — users can always opt-out. While opting out may limit access to specific development programs and product improvement functions, it is an available choice for all users.

There are significant concerns surrounding language in the Terms of Use relating to licensing. While these licenses sound scary, Adobe insists that its licenses do not grant or transfer content ownership to Adobe.

However, that is not obvious when reading the current Terms of Use, so the company aims to provide easy-to-understand examples of licensing as required to use certain software features. Complex legalese is challenging to parse and contextualize, so Adobe hopes — and must — do better to ensure that its Terms of Use are easy to understand in all instances and that users understand what rights Adobe claims to provide specific services.

There was also confusion concerning content moderation. Like all content-hosting platforms, Creative Cloud includes automatic scanning to check for specific illegal and harmful material. If the automatic system flags content, a human will review it. However, this only applies to content stored on Adobe’s content servers. If someone stores content locally, it will never be scanned by Adobe.

Adobe admits it should have modernized and clarified its Terms of Use sooner. It also failed to adequately respond to how customer concerns have changed with the advent of generative AI.

“In a world where customers are anxious about how their data is used, and how generative AI models are trained, it is the responsibility of companies that host customer data and content to declare their policies not just publicly, but in their legally binding Terms of Use,” Adobe explains. “Our updated Terms of Use, which we will be releasing next week, will be more precise, will be limited to only the activities we know we need to do now and in the immediate future, and uses more plain language and examples to help customers understand what they mean and why we have them.”

As for the broader issue of trust, and how Adobe has lost it, the company says, “We recognize that trust must be earned. We are grateful for your feedback, will be connecting with many customers in our community this week to discuss our approach and these changes, and are determined to be a trusted partner for creators in the era ahead. We will work tirelessly to make it so.”

When it comes to software that artists and creators use to make meaningful content or, in many cases, earn a living, there is little room for ambiguity concerning content ownership, how generative AI is built and trained, and data security.

Image credits: Adobe