Adobe users in Venezuela received an email on Monday that said access to their accounts, and thus any Adobe software or services would be blocked. In the email, Adobe said the move was made to comply with Trump's Executive Order 13884, which was issued in August and prohibits U.S. companies from doing business with the country.
"In order to accommodate the impact of this change, we are providing advanced notice and a grace period lasting until October 28, 2019, for you to download any content you have stored in your Adobe account," the email sent to users said. "After October 28, 2019, you will no longer have access to your account, Adobe.com, or Adobe software and services."
Later that day, a webpage was set up that offered little in the way of further explanation. "The U.S. Government issued Executive Order 13884, the practical effect of which is to prohibit almost all transactions and services between U.S. companies, entities, and individuals in Venezuela," the company said. “To remain compliant with this order, Adobe is deactivating all accounts in Venezuela.”
Adobe went on to explain that the Executive Order also prevented it from issuing refunds. "Executive order 13884, orders the cessation of all activity with the entities including no sales, service, support, refunds, credits, etc.” After the October 28 deadline, Venezuelans won't be able to use free Adobe services either.
In a statement to Motherboard, Adobe said, “Adobe will continue customer and partner support activities permitted under the Executive Order but will pause all activities which are not permitted. We regret any inconvenience this may cause to customers, as we continue to carefully monitor and assess the situation. We will share more details as to how our operations and customer activities might be impacted, as those details become available."
Losing Adobe access means losing critical tools across multiple disciplines and industries: Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere Pro, After Effects, and more are now off the table for Venezuelans. This speaks to the outsized power of Adobe's effective monopoly.
As the dominant player in digital multimedia, Adobe sets the rules of engagement in the industry. Its prices are the cost of entry into digital design, and users spend years developing skills to work with their products specifically. Adobe largely operates on a subscription-only model, meaning users are perpetually forced to pay steep prices if they want to upgrade an application that they don’t get to own, and for which access can be removed at any time.
Whatever questions Adobe's move in Venezuela raises about big tech monopolies, it all comes back to whether the U.S. sanctions should be happening in the first place and who they’re hurting. These sanctions are working as virtually all sanctions do—by targeting the most vulnerable, including, now, any worker who happens to depend on Adobe products for their livelihood.