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After backlash, Adobe promises it will "never" use your content to train AI

Adobe says the whole ordeal was a misunderstanding.
By

Published onJune 11, 2024

TL;DR
  • Adobe has issued a clarification following backlash over recent updates to its terms of use.
  • The company promises to never access user-uploaded content to train generative AI models.
  • An updated terms of use document with simplified language will be published as early as next week.

Adobe, the company behind Photoshop and the Creative Cloud software suite, found itself in hot water last week over a handful of clauses in its terms of use that suggested the company would access user content to train machine learning models. Following widespread backlash and threats of boycott, the company has issued a statement clarifying certain aspects of its legal agreement. Adobe is also publishing a revised version of the document as early as next week, which will no longer give the company a sweeping license to user data and content.

The biggest win comes from Adobe’s direct acknowledgment of the public’s fear that it would use uploaded content to train future AI models. In a new blog post, the company plainly states that user-owned content will “never be used to train any generative AI tool.” Instead, Adobe will only tap into works already in the public domain — such as its own library of licensed stock images — to train its models

For reference, a previous update to the document added a clause suggesting Adobe had the right to access user content “through both automated and manual methods.” Another section stated the company could use “techniques such as machine learning” to improve its services and software.

These clauses came less than a year after the release of Adobe Firefly, the company’s first foray into the world of AI image generators. However, the changes went unnoticed for several months before a pop-up summarizing these new terms greeted Photoshop and other Creative Cloud app users.

Adobe’s blog post also states that it will pare back on some of the broad legalese used in some clauses within its terms of use while adding “plain English examples of what they mean and why they are required.” Users can already opt out of analytics and product improvement, but Adobe added that consenting to data sharing will not transfer ownership rights over to the company.

It’s worth noting that Adobe isn’t changing course or admitting fault here, at least not beyond the confusing language in its terms of use document. The company’s chief product officer, Scott Belsky, acknowledged the pop-up’s “summary wording is unclear” and that “the actual TOS are similar to any other modern software provider with cloud features.” And in a statement offered to The Verge, Adobe’s president of digital media said,

We have never trained generative AI on our customer’s content, we have never taken ownership of a customer’s work, and we have never allowed access to customer content beyond what’s legally required.

While Adobe’s statement should come as a relief to creatives everywhere, the reputational damage and user resentment may understandably stick around. Many have expressed concerns that AI tools like Photoshop’s Generative Fill threaten the livelihood of creatives. The company acknowledged as much in its blog post, stating it’s “determined to be a trusted partner for creators in the era ahead.”

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