Photoshop CS2 on eBay

There are now few things in life more certain than upgrades, death and taxes. A few months ago I decided I really had to upgrade my copy of Photoshop 6, which is now ancient. Having trotted off to Adobe's Online store I discovered that not only had Adobe jacked UK upgrade prices, which I already knew about from the furore on the web, but also they had changed their upgrade policy. In the past any version of Photoshop from v4 was OK. But Photoshop CS3, the current version and the only one they now sell, could only be obtained as an upgrade from Photoshop 7, CS or CS2. I could only buy the full retail product at an eyewatering £569.88.

Adobe clearly hasn't heard that most of the photography industry is in a tailspin. Most professionals are struggling not to spend money at the same time as they are being subjected to relentless price competition and deprived of the value of what they create by predatory publishers and mega-agencies. One reason I avoided Photoshop CS was Adobe's inclusion of Adobe Royalty Free into Bridge - a mechanism to assist creatives to access royalty free collections from within Photoshop and garner Adobe a slice of the profits. Why would I want to pay Adobe money to assist cannibalism?

To be perfectly honest, v7, CS, CS2 and CS3 mostly add features that I do not want nor need, and certainly are not worth paying £569.88 for. Bridge and Imageready are the major additions and are of no interest at all, I already use the excellent iMatch for digital asset management.

Another reason is that I detest software that requires activation. Although every company that goes this route blathers on about it being fairer to paying customers, I have had plenty of trouble with it. My first encounter was with OCR c.1998, an extremely good but infuriating program for OCR of scanned text. I got very fed up having to email them every time I moved the program through successive hardware upgrades. It sometimes took 3 days for a response, and I have since deleted it in favour of a competitor that requires none of this nonsense. Windows XP Pro's activation has been a pain too, after a succession of hardware problems left me not only with a backlog of deadline work but also a non-working operating system. Having to sort that out over the phone meant I did not get to bed until 3am that night instead of 1.30am. I didn't pay MS to keep me up extra late, and if anything Adobe's version of activation has a more mixed reputation.

Still there are a few improvements in later Photoshop versions: better 16bit support, the healing brush, and I can forsee Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom becoming fairly unavoidable in the future.

A couple of weeks ago I noticed about 30 copies of Photoshop CS2 on eBay, all brand new, sealed, shrinkwrapped 'full retail product'. Most were from eBay powersellers with masses of positive feedback, and selling at £100-£150. I am very careful on eBay, and in 100+ transactions have never yet been ripped off despite a couple of close calls. And these CS2 looked absolutely authentic, as if Adobe had dumped a lot of obsolete stock into the reseller chain. I checked the comments of people who had bought this software, everybody was happy : 'product as described'. CS2 would do me fine. It had all the extra bits I'd actually use, so I bought one.

As soon as I opened the package I realised it was fine, authentic Adobe product. Phew, what a relief, another triumph for my shrewd and excellent judgement: PS CS2 for £110 instead of twice what my car is worth.

So I installed it. Everything went as you'd expect. I filled in the registration wizard, and it came back to say I had successfuly registered. Then it trundled off to Adobe and downloaded all the outstanding updates. And yes, the program worked. But what had become of activation, the loathsome procedure whereby Adobe allow you to actually use what you have paid for, and without which the software stops working after 30 days.? I hadn't seen an activation screen at all. The manual said it should appear on installation. So I tried 'activate' on the menu and absolutely nothing happened.

This was clearly not right, but some Googling revealed it happened sometimes. Adobe's tech support documents suggest a number of possible causes including conflicting software, antivirus products, or hardware issues ranging from lost sectors on the disk to a defective disk. They suggest fixing disk errors, formatting the disk, installing Windows fresh, then Photoshop. Then reinstall all your applications and data and see if it's OK. I wasn't terribly impressed by that prospect.

Next I installed it on my laptop to see if I could replicate the problem. It was exactly the same except installation of updates failed as well. Both machines run Norton Antivirus, have had disks partitioned using Partition Magic, and run some bits of Systemworks - all software on Adobe's list of potential activation-breakers. This was beginning to be irritating and turning into one of those PC sagas that eats weekends.

I then discovered that despite completing the registration wizard in CS2, it didn't seem to have created a product record at the Adobe site for me. Drat, yet another glitch.

Meanwhile, I'd been so pleased with myself discovering this money-saving opportunity that I'd placed a message on CIX suggesting anyone who wanted a cheap CS2 should have a look at eBay. One chap had gone ahead and found exactly as I had - that registration and activation seemed to be broken. He had also noticed that keyboard shortcuts did not work. But he had rung Adobe support and been told that the serial number was invalid.

So too have I, now.

Date: Mon, 17 Sep 2007 13:24:53 +0200 (CEST)
From: Adobe English Customer Service <>
To: <>
Subject: Invalid Serial Number (KMM3021291I51L0KM)

Dear Mr. Sleep,

Your Customer Service Number is: --------

In regards to serial number: 1045-1084-5805-7432-9705-7296, please note that
this is an unauthorised serial number and therefore, the product which you
have may not be an authorised copy. Unfortunately we cannot register this
product using this serial number. You will therefore not be able to receive
technical support or other benefits.
We strongly recommend that you pass a copy of this letter to the dealer or
distributor from whom you obtained the product in order to resolve this issue.
In circumstances such as these your dealer is the appropriate contact.

Should you require any further information, please do not hesitate to

Sarah Stahl
Adobe Customer Service
Tel: (UK) 02073650733
Tel: (Eire) 012421552
Fax: 0031 20 5820800

Both our copies are counterfeit product, it appears. Adobe admitted to me that there are ways in which authentic product can acquire invalid serial numbers, but they are usually returns. Also they said that they never dump obsolete product. After production ceases they store any remaining stock in case it is required as replacements. I read that as : shrinkwrapped and hacked software, to disable activation, can surely only be fakes.

What is remarkable is that these are not shabby boot sale knock-offs, they have exactly the same quality of production as Adobe's own product. Everything is included, shrinkwrapped packaging, a 410-page litho printed manual on coated stock, even stock and serial number labels. The CD printing is perfect, without a hint of second-generation anywhere. Neither of us could tell they were fakes, and worse, nor will dealers and resellers be able to do so unless there is something innately suspicious about their supplier.

I have been in touch with the eBay seller and don't propose naming him because he appears genuinely concerned and promises an immediate refund. Besides there are many sellers. I count 25 'new retail CS2' on sale via and 58 via I also looked at the German, French, Italian and Spanish eBay sites, but only found a couple of copies. There is no way to know whether it's only some, many or all eBay PS CS2 that are fakes, but there doesn't appear to be any way to tell until you try and register and activate them. It stands to reason that anyone counterfeiting this well has gone to substantial trouble and expense and will be producing a very large number of copies.

There is of course the likelihood that buyers won't care, so long as they get a cheap version of CS2 that doesn't need activating, that looks authentic and even includes a nice manual. If they return it, they risk difficulty in obtaining a refund, and may lose their money. The temptation is to collude and keep quiet. They may even kid themselves it is authentic but malfunctioning, as I did initially, but I think this is dangerous. We have no idea what other changes may have been made to the software, whether trojans or keyloggers have been added. Counterfeiting at this scale and quality is after all organised crime. I don't particularly want the mafia in my computer.

Presumably most people buying CS2 will actually do so in the belief they are getting the real thing, else they'd simply go and download a Warez copy and Keygen and avoid paying anything. If you Google for 'photoshop CS2 keygen download' you get 1.8m hits, and for CS3 2.7m hits. Aside from the illegality and immorality, who knows what else a hacker is going to install as an unwanted payload? But clearly, Adobe prices make this worth the risk for a great many people, most of whom would never have bought Photoshop anyway. Still, counterfeiting is different from Warez, aimed at people who don't actually want to steal but simply get a better deal than Adobe offers. On old product sold through an auction site by vendors with good track records, it's a plausible and tempting proposition pitched at people who do want to be honest and believe they are getting an opportunity to buy back into upgrade eligibility that Adobe has foreshortened with CS3.

Adobe estimate 4x-5x as many copies of Photoshop are pirated as are sold. Perhaps it is time they looked again at their pricing, upgrade policies and activation as a deterrent to illicit use, because all they seem to have achieved is a massive business opportunity for a better class of counterfeiter able to fool punters and dealers alike, and that will lose them many millions more than hacked copies off Bittorrent ever could.


Below are PDF's of Photoshop CS2 & CS3 software currently on sale via Ebay UK and Ebay USA. How many are legitimate?

PreviewAttachmentSize - photoshop cs2 retail.pdf152.87 KB - photoshop cs2 retail.pdf232.36 KB - photoshop cs3 retail.pdf203.29 KB


Late to find your

Late to find your article..... I try this, after few months looking for cheap original adobe.. I give up now.. take a look, PS:Photoshop brushes works well with this software..

I bought Adobe Photoshop CS4

I bought Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended for very low price, so low if I told you then you would automatically say it was not genuine. Here is my experience: It works perfectly and the serial number was accepted during installation and software activated. What has been the experience of buyers that bought "counterfeit" was the serial number simply invalid, or did it not activate, what exactly was wrong? I have read a portion of comments on here after reading the original post and am not sure exactly. You see, what I have is very low priced Adobe PS CS4 Extended. It installed, serial numer was accepted, activated, allowed me to download and install updates and works perfectly fine. And I happen to know the software has not been hacke dor cracked or whatever, because I downloaded the trial version from Adobe directly (installed it on a clean machine with no previous installs) and it worked just the same. I happened to save over 90% and do not see what the problem is; it is not OEM (I don't think Adobe do such software) it is genuine retail license.

I've read all these posts

I've read all these posts with great interest. As a (not very high earning) freelance designer, I've been working with old (i.e non-upgradeable) versions of Photoshop, Illustrator, etc but realise I can't put off buying Adobe CS4 for much longer. However, it seems like the proverbial "caught between a rock and a hard place"- whether to pay over £1100 for a kosher version or buy at £600-£700 from Ebay or other "discount" seller and risk ending up with an unusable fake. There are, currently, on Google, a couple of top hits which offer this software (CS4 Design Standard) for £605 - very tempting. I checked one of them out ( which had a UK domain and London postal address, only to find that the "office" was a mail drop only and the company was actually US based. Another such company (PBSoftware) has an almost identical website. Something just doesn't feel right! Meanwhile, on Ebay, there are a couple of sellers, offering multiple copies of this software at £679. Checking out two of these sellers, I find them to have the same address (an ordinary house). They both have high feedback scores, so I'm currently contacting some of their customers to see if they have experienced the sorts of activbation problems you describe.

Fake versions Adobe CS4 Extended etc.

I had the same experience and I am very wundering what is happen and the fact I don’t find so much about this topic on the internet. So many people (buyers) don’t know they have fake versions. Besides Adobe is not helping you with Paypal claims. I am very happy I found this webiste, so I can link to it and let people show in the Netherlands that this is more than an occassionally loss of 300 Euro in my case! To warn people is the best thing you can do … Some text from : these Adobe CS4 Photoshop Extended packages are fake (one says in forums from China), with a fake serialnumber and a fake activation process (check it at Adobe)! Check your Adobe CS4 package bought at Ebay for a much lower price at Adobe, mostly they are fake!! Check generally all software bought on Ebay / Amazone etc.!! Don’t buy from hidden people (mostly criminals), ask their telephone number (not mobiles) and name first and check it before you buy (afterwards you can report them at the police or to special organisations if there are, when your product is fake)!! In a normal webshop, the owner is mostly known!! Even when Paypal (is also Ebay) had accepted your claim, Ebay will not always remove criminals from their website. It seems Ebay protects criminals, ask an employee if you know one in your neighbourhood !! It is very easy to improve the system of selling for Ebay / Amazone etc., but do they want that ? For example, when you buy, send automatically an email to the buyer with all personal data from the seller, so you can contact/check him/she first … do you buy in a real shop from an invisible person ?? An idea from myself is to have an optional shipping option when you buy software or something else on the internet, that your item will be first checked at a third organization (when choosen for that option of course e.g. for the serialnumber). See it as employees of customs who are doing their jobs at transport companies, if eveything ok they forward the item to you, if not the seller has problems … of course you as buyer has to pay the extra option … especially usefull for buying at Ebay etc.

Wow great post

I was researching purchasing cs3 on ebay myself. Glad I read your post before I did. I agree 100% with everything you say. Thank you.

So why don't Adobe act?

People keep asking "why haven't Adobe acted to prevent the trade in fakes?". They don't appear to have done a great deal. Sure, enough complaints about a seller on Amazon or eBay get them removed eventually, but hydra-like they respawn. Why haven't Adobe acted to try and kill piracy at source? If in fact they haven't.

Here's my theory.

I think the Adobe proposition is simple enough, they have here a mechanism that enables them to evade free market price competition and effectively impose retail price maintenance.

If done deliberately as policy, this would be illegal price fixing in most jurisidictions. But since anyone who buys any Adobe software retail at a discount is very likely buying counterfeit product, and the only truly safe source is Adobe themselves, they have complete legitimate control of their own pricing. And of course they can take the high moral ground, pointing to the flood of pirated copies as evidence of why activation and DRM is a necessary imposition.

It seems a grotesque way to treat customers but is clearly profitably expedient. Adobe's core market is really now corporates. Retail is a relatively small and messy PITA with dealer margins and support overheads.

Of course Adobe wants to remain the standard, so turning a blind eye to piracy ensures it remains so - that always new generations of users are growing up with the software. MS are much the same. MS have always condemned piracy but always they have allowed a back channel access to much cheaper routes, tolerating the trade in OEM and educational versions that are often used way outside the EULA. Even activation isn't that strict, it can be used across multiple machines with inconvenience and loss of support.

Ultimately some of the users of unauthorised sofware will become the corporate buyers and licensed users of tomorrow, whilst those who don't would never have been able to afford RRP anyhow. That's pretty much the whole of China and the Asian bloc. Getting ripped off on eBay is just the collateral damage of Adobe's corporate strategy.

Regards, Tony Sleep

More Amazon fakes

More details about fake CS3 bought via Amazon marketplace sellers, including useful info about how to pursue Amazon for refunds, can be found here

Regards, Tony Sleep

And so it continues

CS3 and CS4 are now widely available as Chinese knockoffs, usually at a fraction of SRP.

See for example the Pirated Software Alert re CS3, or MTStudios adventures with fake CS4.

In fact I believe any software in Adobe's range is now far more widely available from fraudsters than through legitimate outlets. I would suggest that until and unless Adobe get off their fat arses and actually do something, that until eBay, Amazon and Paypal get a sense of social responsibility instead of just hoovering up commission from conmen, everybody just boycotts the whole damn festering lot of them. Unlike the banks (same problem) we don't owe them a living and can do without them.

Regards, Tony Sleep


This happens now on Amazon marketplace: I guess it's going wider and wider... Half an hour I made comment on another store (ortservices) - it's closed now and the one linked above just opened. I notified Amazon, I notified Adobe, still didn't get money back. This is one big, f**king joke...

Counterfeit CS2 - and the Adobe company

Well, it's now February 2009. I've read this webpage AFTER buying my CS2 from EBay. Like most of you, I was not interested in getting illicit software. I use Photoshop 6 only occasionally for personal use, and am taking a class to learn more about it. The class requires CS2 or CS3.

I've bought other older software versions quite successfully, so had no reason to think this would be different. My copy is as excellent as the others seem to be. The biggest "red flag" I noticed was that the manual is in black-and-white only, no color pages. All those supposedly-lovely images used as examples of using color look like bad xeroxes.

My software installed and registered, then gave me the afore-mentioned activation error to restart and reinstall. Which didn't help. It didn't say it wouldn't activate. I was lucky in one detail. My seller refunded my payment even before the software arrived. When I wrote him that I would pay again as soon as the activation was successful (hint, hint), he replied that the refund was no mistake; he'd used a drop-ship company (out of Singapore, yes) and they'd shipped "wrong items", so he was refunding my money. So now I have a counterfeit copy I can keep.

If I can confirm that there's no malware on it, I may install it as a trial version and see what happens, or try to get around the activation. All I need is to get through class without having to use the computers at school. After that, I can go back to Photoshop 6, or PhotoPlus. And by the way, for those of you looking for alternate software, I highly recommend PhotoPlus, by Serif. I've been using the Serif products for many years. They're based in the UK, and the PhotoPlus does almost as much as Photoshop for a fraction of the price. And once you're on their customer list, they're always offering really good deals on upgrades and companion software. They also offer a 30-day trial - they'll ship you the software and you can use it for 30 days.

As for the Adobe company, I did phone them to inquire about the activation error. I was told that "EBay is not an approved Adobe reseller" (duh!) and they don't support CS2. CS4 gets free installation support; CS3 gets charged installation support, and CS2 gets nada. He didn't ask anything about my copy being counterfeit, didn't ask my serial number to tell me it was counterfeit - nothing. The plethora of counterfeit copies is clearly of no concern to them. If they wanted to eliminate the counterfeit copies, they could do so many things - the first being to loudly publicize that, as Tony learned, old legal versions are never legally sold on the aftermarket. How about a link on their home page to teach current and potential customers about the risk and telltale clues to counterfeit products? My experience with this poorly reflects as much on Adobe as on the counterfeiters. It reinforces my decision to stick with Serif products.

Regards, Southern Belle

eCostsoftware and Adobe

I too have had similar problems with eCostsoftware as Thierry, and I too, like others here, have also had the same CS3 counterfeit problems on eBay, though luckily the eBay Seller gave me an instant refund on my £150.

In fact it was my initial problems with eBay that drove me to look for a legitimate, yet cheaper source of Adobe software than Adobe's on-line shop. That's how I found eCostSoftware.

I took the precaution of contacting Adobe first before I ordered to verify them as a valid Adobe Software source, they informed me several times that they are a legitimate Adobe reseller and that I wouldn't have problems (and still claim to this day that I won't have any problems).

I've been watching their site like a hawk, and I know they don't have any of the Adobe product I want because they told me ! Yet their website's product availability counter went UP from a NON-ZERO number to an even higher one (when they didn't have any product to start with and didn't get any more in). When I questioned them about this, they said that they are going to take that webpage off (why not just fix the quantities ?)

Yet that didn't stop them taking A LARGE SUM OF MONEY from my account (despite me cancelling my order AND them confirming with me that the order had been cancelled). Not surprising that I have reported them to the Trading Standards and my Bank (and am still trying to get my money back).

Yes, it has only been a week - so it's early days maybe to start complaining at full force.

BUT I have NEVER EVER seen a company EVER take money BEFORE they even have any product.


Okay.. I purchased a

Okay.. I purchased a Photoshop CS3 for $80 and the very same day that I purchased it, I read this article.. so I wrote to the seller, explained my concerns and asked her if she could double check the serial number with Adobe before shipping it.. turns out, it was pirated.

 The seller was extremely apologetic, and having purchased the CS3 from ebay to resell, assured me that she had no idea that it was fake.. the payment was refunded, transaction cancelled, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Thanks for the heads up! Now, I'm only considering purchasing a PS from a seller who has personally registered the software and is willing to transfer the license.. and I'm definitely checking with Adobe first!

Activation problems

There are reasons why legitimate PS won't activate, eg I believe Adobe's activation method writes on sector 0 of your hard disk. Some security software will regard this as nefarious (it is - Google 'Root kit') and will prevent it, as it's the sort of thing that would only be done by malware.

Regards, Tony Sleep

photoshop CS2 activation


I had a problem with photoshop CS2 activation. I went through the installation and updates and it registered OK. When I came to run the program it proceeded to start up but a message came up saying that there was a problem with activation and to restart the computer and reinstall the software. I went through tyhe whole procedure again with the same results. I then uninstalled the program and installed it on a different computer and it activated with out problems. The original computer had a lot of software a 1920x1200 graphics card and Internet security software. To date I have not been able to determine why it is OK on one computer and not the other.


Hi Thierry,

Report your issue to your VISA card issuer. You will get your money back, and the seller wil get a chargeback of around £40 and a black mark.

It may also be worth talking to the local Trading Standards dept. of Richmond Council, because if eCostsoftware make a habit of this sort of thing they will be known.

Regards, Tony Sleep

I purchased Adobe acrobat

I purchased Adobe acrobat pro9 from the online shop eCostsoftware, 20 days ago, my visa card was debited immediately and but still no news of the delivery. Sending emails or catching them over the phone or chatting-online seems to be useless.

I strongly recommand to avoid this site  which will cost your purse

ecostsoftware eCost Software 16 - 18 London Road Twickenham Middlesex TW1 3RR

I agree with Tony's comments " I'd be interested to know what they say, especially if they say something like 'the only way we can guarantee authentic software is if you buy direct from Adobe online shop'.


ebay not the only site

an up and coming contender appears to be flush with counterfeit copies of CS2 - I've just been silly enought to have gone and bought one, thinking out of date software might be going cheap. I didn't even need to open the shrink wrap to tell, it has "designed for windews xp" (their typo not mine) on the side - considering this artwork would be provided by M$ is should be spelt correctly. The intel logos next to it are of a poor quality too.

Hi Tony, I'm another person

Hi Tony, I'm another person who bought a fake CS2 on Ebay Uk. I had previously bought and successfully registered Acrobat 7 and InDesign 2 boxed with serial numbers that worked, activated and updated, so I felt confident with this. In fact, it worked first time - with the screwed up keyboard commands, but I attributed that to the fact that I was using it on a Mac with Parallels. The problems only started on re-installing the software: it wouldn't activate. I have contacted the seller, and while not holding my breath will be interested to see what he says. The version I bought was on DVD sealed, but there are minor differences from the two legit versions: - the serial number sticker is slightly larger and is on thicker, flat paper - the font of the serial number is slightly different - the font size of the serial number is slightly larger. Otherwise the jewel case is identical, and the sheets in the case are identical. It looks - as has been suggested above - that it has been printed from the original file but on a different offset printer. It says made in Singapore on the CD as others have reported. What I'd like to know, is why when you go to the Adobe site and test the serial number, it gives a non-committal response, rather than simply saying "fraudulent copy" and allowing you to report it! It's just bonkers. Why make it so hard to help them? Cheers, M.

I've just googled cs2 and

I've just googled cs2 and found your page - had it my mind to look on ebay for a copy - thanks for the info as it's now made me think twice.

hi, thank you very much for

hi, thank you very much for an article. I have absolute same problem, and after read this article I realize My copy is pirate. :( ... My good friend from USA bought adobe photoshop cs2 for me for 245$ from eBay and I am sure she didn't really know the seller sell pirate software. The box was nice, same great manual, two CD but activation didn't work. So I will talk with her ASAP and find some solution for this. but because I use this software for 4 months I don't think she will get her money back. :( So I will have to buy Photoshop again, but this time I will be more careful. (sorry for my bad English, I'm from Czech Republic)

eBay gets handbagged

Times Online reports " EBay, the online auctioneer, is likely to face a barrage of lawsuits after it was ordered yesterday to pay €40 million (£31.5 million) in damages to LVMH, the French luxury goods group, for selling fake handbags, perfumes and haute couture.

The Paris Commercial Court said that eBay had committed “serious faults” through its failure to keep counterfeit goods off its site."

I wonder if Adobe's lawyers will now be joining the queue?


Regards, Tony Sleep

Hi, I sell software on ebay

Hi, I sell software on ebay and rest assured every item I sell is 100% genuine and for retail in the UK. I've come across quite a few of the fakes and they are all over ebay... although it looks like they are being sold by quite a few different sellers, I'm not sure if that is the case as the listing styles are all remarkably similar and it seems that as one seller disappears, never to be seen again, another one immediately takes their place! They are very good fakes it has to be said but there are a number of ways that they can be spotted... I don't have one in front of me to check but the type face used on the 'Adobe Photoshop CS2' on the front of the box is definitely not right - I think it's a different font and the weight and color is definitely different - it's bolder and darker. There are general problems with the color matching and the inks used but the easiest way to tell it's a fake before opening it is to look at the Adobe logos - if they look anything but a perfect red then it's fake... all of the ones I've come across are a weaker red and slightly orange in color. The label on the bottom showing the part number etc is a good indicator as well - if the ink is thick and very black it's most likely fake or from the USA. The film used to wrap the manual is very thin and flimsy on the fakes... will most likely rip if you rub it for a second or two! The CD cases on the UK retail version has the Adobe logo on the black spine and also says something like '2 discs' or '2 CD' which the fakes don't. Also... and this is a biggy! The feather on the front of the CD case on an authentic version will run vertically and on the fakes they all run horizontally! ...that's all I can remember off the top of my head but hope it helps someone! Don't be put off buying software on ebay - just make sure to ask questions first and if you do buy anything buy it through PayPal using your credit card... that way if you buy a fake item you can just call your credit card company who will give you your money back and who will also investigate the trader! As far as I know there aren't any fake Photoshop CS3s, as yet, on ebay - the thing to avoid is buying one which isn't supposed to be used in this country... most being sold on there are from the USA. The way to check before buying is to ask the seller to look on the bottom of the box and let you know where it says it was printed... only buy the ones which say 'printed in Ireland' because that is the UK retail version. Then ask them for the Manufacturing Part Number and search by that on Google within the UK - that way you know exactly what you're getting!

Not late at all, this is still continuing!

I can't make any comment on eCost software except to say that if they're authorised Adobe dealers you should be OK. Otherwiise I would avoiid. Best I can suggest is that you contact Adobe Uk and ask them if product sold by

eCost Software
16 - 18 London Road

is legitimate or not.

I'd be interested to know what they say, especially if they say something like 'the only way we can guarantee authentic software is if you buy direct from Adobe online shop'.

Regards, Tony Sleep

Hi Tony, I think I'm a bit

Hi Tony, I think I'm a bit late on this posting, though with all this talk on Adobe pirated software bought directly on ebay, what about resellers? I'm interested in purchasing the Adobe CS3 Design Premium and after I've read through these articles there is no way I will be buying this on ebay. I've searched around and have come across a range of pricing, from 1100gbp-1600, now what? All these companies reselling these products appear to be legitimate with many positive reviews but I can't believe that adobe distribution channel in the UK would allow for such a discrepancy, 500 gbp?? something's fishy here also. I'm considering buying from this company as they have one of the cheaper prices out there but too cheap to be true, can anyone give me their opinion as to whether I should buy?? Thanks Kev

Good article, I found that a

Good article, I found that a lot of those same sellers on eBay, also are selling high quality counterfeits of Windows 2003 Server Standard Edition. These also come in a seal box with all the original materials. The difference comes with the quality of the hologram on the cd, which is actually painted and protected with a thin clear film (youll have to compare with a genuine disk to notice the difference). Also when you install the server, it installs as an Enterprise Server (doesn't request activation), instead of a Standard Server. Also, the port holes on the COA are not "cut" as on a genuine COA, and if you look at the back of the COA, you can tell that the security strip its not placed as it suppose to be. So far, I have found 30 different sellers selling these items, 11, accounts have been closed, (6 different accounts from the same 2 counties in Ohio) I have written more information and posted pictures on an the following ebay guide.

60% of Photoshop users are pirates

According to a survey at 60% of Photoshop users are pirates. I wonder if that includes users of counterfeit copies too. Either way, it doesn't seem to be a vote of confidence in activation and high-priicing.

Regards, Tony Sleep


Yes, it's true, there have been a number of typos reported with counterfeits, especially on the CD printing. However the copy I bought had none that I could find. So absence of errors doesn't seem a reliable indicator of authenticity, even though the presence of errors is a good clue to fakes.

Regards, Tony Sleep

A small addition to the debate

To confirm that you have a counterfiet copy look at the small print on the disks you have received. Mistakes can be found. On a copy I have seen, the text reads countries,Adobe ie. there is no space between countries and Adobe. Also there is text reading aregistered.... ie. no space between a and registered. If you have a copy of the Total Trainin Video Workshop, they have spelt TOTAL wrong in one place (TEOTAL) A genuine Adobe product would never have these errors.

Thank you for this article.

Thank you for this article. I was about to purchase a cheap copy of cs2 from a vender on I still had my suspicians, so I did research, and found your blog. It's saved me from a lot of misery.

Counterfeit CS2

Thanks indeed for this very good article. I was about to buy a similar CS2 product from US eBay. For all the exact same reasons as you did - an upgrade form an aging Photoshop 6 edition.... Much appreciate your time and effort. I want Photoshop to be cheaper - but really don't want a counterfeit copy. The economics of counterfeiting are: if it is too expensive, counterfeiting is economically viable and unstoppable. The idiots at Adobe need to learn a lesson.


I'm aware of The Gimp (and GPL - this site is based on Drupal and Menalto Gallery2 and I use Firefox and Thunderbird - and I have tried Gimp in the past. What it most badly lacked then was colour management and layers. It may have grown more useful since. Gimpshop may someday be an alternative and Pixel looks promising too. The latter at least features colour management without which no image editing software can be taken seriously.

Regards, Tony Sleep


Tony, It would be worth trying GIMP - it is FREE and works across platforms. As Adobe beomes more and more protective it behoves people to start looking more seriously at open source software. Firefox for one. I have been using Photoshop since Photoshop CS2 and continue out of habit. I see no point in going beyond CS2. If I was to get really serious I would want to switch to a program like GIMP. It isn't quite Photoshop, but dollars to peanuts, with a little bit of experimenting you can make it do everything you want. Also there is a big community of geeks that listen to suggestions. That is how it is built. David

Amazon & US copies

Amazon itself should be OK, but beware of Amazon marketplace sellers, known counterfeit copies have been purchased from several.

As for buying a US copy and activating in UK, this thread at PhotoNet alleges "The main US distributors for Adobe (e.g. Ingram, Amazon) seem to have agreed not to sell Adobe products to export customers. The only way Europeans can purchase at US prices is by visiting the USA and buying from a store.". Also that it's impossible to buy from Adobe's US download store, you get redirected to the UK server for a reaming.

Can anyone see any real difference between 'we will rob you because we can' when Adobe do it, as opposed to when pirates and counterfeiters do it?

Regards, Tony Sleep

Reading the above I think

Reading the above I think maybe it's not worth the risk buying my Adobe software from eBay, no matter how genuine it sounds. Still don't want to be ripped off buying in the UK so has anyone ever had any problems with installation or support buying from so called legitimate sites in the US like or others? It's still cheaper even with VAT and import charges.

Reynard Software and Peter Murphy

Hi Tony, I was just reading about the Adobe issue again on you page when I saw Peter Murphy mentioned in one of your entries, about Apex Design Media software (2007-11-20). Interestingly that is the name that comes up in the whois archives regarding reynard-software: I thought I`d heard the name before. I don`t know what came of Reynard but I did get my money back through WorldPay, also I got a letter from Adobe that I could use in court if required stating that I had been supplied with pirate software, also they sent me a few anti-piracy goodies in the form of playing cards (absolutely brilliant too!), a clock and a digital keyring which I can`t figure out ;-) I kept the CS3 book too. Cheers.

Singapore copies

I would be extremely suspicious of 'Made in Singapore' copies sold in EC and US markets. Adobe does have a legitimate manufacturing partner in Singapore, but as far as I know this services Asian markets only. Possibly it does make English language versions for Australia/NZ. But as far as I know all Singapore products turning up in EC and USA have been counterfeit.

This quite likely applies to all Adobe products, not just PS.

I can only refer you to Adobe's own advice, that the only way to be sure of buying a non-counterfeit Adobe product is to buy from an authorised dealer. Since nobody knows who they are because they are not listed anywhere, this means the only safe source is Adobe themselves at full SRP. I am rather amazed Adobe's 'authorised dealers' - assuming it has some somewhere - are not pissed about this.

Regards, Tony Sleep

Adobe Creative Suite CS3 design premium

Hi, I saw someone selling Adobe Creative Suite CS3 design premium which was made in Singapore on eBay. I was wondering all adobe stuff made in Singapore is fake. I heard many times that product (especially Adobe software) in Singapore's "the disk" is not refined,but they are exactly same as sold in USA.But,It states made in Singapore.If I would like to use Adobe in USA,the item on ebay US could be the fake? Please tell me if you know anything. Thank you, Sue

invalid photoshop CS2 on eBay and on Amazon Market Place

I tried twice to buy Photoshop CS2 at a reasonable price. On eBay the offer promised that the versions had been bought direct from Amazon. It gave me the same result as TS described, except that the activation was not disabled. It would not work or register (which it tried to do automatically). I got my money back from the seller but there was a lot of unpleasantness between him and me, because I did not give him a good rating for the transaction! On Amazon Market Place I tried again, same result except the seller was very pleasant and apologetic and concerned. Adobe gave me the same email re invalidity as TS received in both instances. I am disappointed by eBay for not taking my complaint seriously enough. I think the seller should have been banned at least. Adobe are to blame to some extent, I think, for charging European customers about twice the price they charge US customers. There is no justification for this blatant unfairness. I suspect my versions were US versions which would not activate from a PC which is in the UK and which is using a UK ISP, and I was quite open about the fact that I was in the UK.

It also happend with CS!

Hi, it might be a bit late, but I'd like to mention that I had a similar problem with CS1(!) Premium, bought at It was sold as an american version, cost me >800,-€ a couple of years ago - seemed to be correct pricing for an _am_ version (cheaper there as you mentioned). It says "Printed/Produced in the USA" on manual, CDs etc. (everywhere), and – I can tell for sure - it's a very good offset litho printed box, manual etc., the CDs having bar-codes a.s.o., no shift in colours or anything. Activation went fine, but then … About one and 1/2 year after first (incomplete) install I tried to install GoLive for the first time - impossible. Called Adobe Customer "Service" - just to be told I'd bought an illicit copy and it was my fault not to buy at a certified vendor. No comment on my question about the correct activation. And no chance to get my money back. Why I'm posting this still that late is: the problem obviously occured much earlier than CS2, and I never believed in this simple "chinese high tech piracy" theory. Or still, if it's the case, Adobe behaves in an unacceptable way towards their customers, treating them like thiefs (that's what I felt during the phone call with the "service") instead of tracking down the pirates. If it's big China, _there_ might be the reason for Adobe's (silent) behaviour: it's a huge market of the future, so nothing ever happens - be it Adobe or any given government … Nonetheless I strongly disagree to obey this "Buy from us or be considered a software pirate"-thing. Adoby pirates my harddisks / MBRs as a matter of fact - _not_ saying so on the CDs or manuals. It has cost me (and many others, for sure) days to rebuild my whole system after a messed up Adobe install - who pays for this waste of our life-time? - they give a damn, just writing "If this and that fails, do a fresh windows installation" and "don't use RAID" in their bloody knowledge base! What sort of policy is that?! (Sorry for getting emotional ;-) I really wait for the day to replace all Adobe software by open source stuff - being also able to finally switch to Linux then … And as discussed in Ed Foster's Blog, I now fully understand everyone who buys a legit copy, but uses something else for time-saving and mental health reasons … This software activation policy is not only for "keeping the sheep on the line" (or how someone expressed it), but for tracking users in every possible extent and way – known as data mining … Best thing to avoid it: use a highly customizable firewall or, if possible, use Adobe software just on machines not connected to the internet at all.

Not Adobe product

No, the software has been cracked so it does not activate, and keyboard shortcuts do not work, so the CD's are not original Adobe product.

It is possible Adobe's original postscript files have been stolen and used to make the copies on some other press. That could account for the minor differences in printing (moire, spot colour red is pinkish etc.)and seems more likely than someone recreating all the artwork by copying, but I'm just speculating here. Adobe surely knows, but aren't saying.

Regards, Tony Sleep

I suspect this're geniune

I suspect this're geniune adobe product that are being stolen during transit or in the warehouse. That's the reason adobe not taking any actions?

eBay trade continues

Phil said

'After a few replies somebody asked me to post a link to the Ebay items. Well I went back to the site and all the fake copies had been pulled. The two main descriptive items that I can see that differentiate between the fake and the real items on ebay listings are that the scammers do not list item as UK retail'

This is not unfortunately correct. Go to and use this link to do a search on 'photoshop (CS2,,CS3) retail

As of today, and every other time I've done it over the past 6 months, there is at least a page of results. All are reliably fake except possibly occasional Mac retail packages at near SRP.

Work it out: an average 20 copies selling every 10 days at an average of about £140 each. In a year that's approximately £100,000. eBay and Paypal are profiting nicely from this criminal enterprise, and Adobe has shown no inclination to act through the VeRO programme which exists to provide an instant means of taking down counterfeiits. It appears to suit all of them to let this fraud run. It stinks.

Regards, Tony Sleep

Hi Tony, Like you and the

Hi Tony, Like you and the other people here I was annoyed at the discrepancy between UK pricing and US pricing for Photoshop CS3, which is not far off £ for $. I looked at ebay and was amazed at the prices and also very suspicious of the dealers. I posted a comment to this effect on DPreview asking if people knew if these copies were fakes. After a few replies somebody asked me to post a link to the Ebay items. Well I went back to the site and all the fake copies had been pulled. The two main descriptive items that I can see that differentiate between the fake and the real items on ebay listings are that the scammers do not list item as UK retail, they also have the nerve to add goods cannot be returned if the discs have been removed from packaging due to software piracy.

I am absolutely sure that Adobe is aware of the scale of the problem, they would have to be sub moronic not to have a record of failed activations, and there must be masses of people contacting them to ask about these copies. I would not be surprised if what we are witnessing is pure corporate greed where they realize that there is a huge problem, but that if they get their software protection sorted for CS4 then the unfortunates who bought the fakes will not be able to upgrade, and they will still get their profit albeit delayed by one product release.

My guide to buying expensive software: If the product is new, it should only be sold by a genuine VAT registered company with proper address and business telephone number. If it is used, there should be an original receipt/invoice from a proper registered company. Where does this leave us the genuine customer who wants to play by the board and being ripped off from both scammers and the software vendor? I read an article where it explained how it is possible to register email address in the USA, download and register CS3 using US email address (you have to get US ZIP code) and as far as Adobe are concerned you are a US customer. You get all products and upgrades at US prices though support will be at US time zones. As far as I am aware this is totally legal though inconvenient. It would be much better if Adobe woke up to the fact that we live in a global interconnected world and people do not like being ripped off. This problem is entirely of their own making. They cite additional cost of UK distribution etc. Okay Adobe give us the choice of buying from USA with USA support. That should cost around $15 dollars postage plus VAT, which of course business users can claim back. I couldn't care less if they close UK division if it is costing double for the privilege of having one.

Naming names

There's no sign of any interest nor action from anybody, except that the seller I bought from - braddock369 - seems not to be on eNay anymore. He's either decided £7k (estimated, from about 55 sales) was enough, or been carted away by the police I guess.

Just in case anyone anywhere gives a shit, the following eBayers seem to be flogging off amazingly cheap Photoshop CS2 and CS3 retail on a regular basis:


My apologies to any others who I have missed. I'm sure there are some.

All have positive feedback, so either buyers are not spotting counterfeit software, are choosing to overlook its status in view of the low prices and hassle of getting their money back, or are buying genuine Adobe product. Yeah, right.

But also check out Apex Design Media software for some too-good-to-be-true Adobe bargains. Registered to one Peter Murphy, who has opted to omit his contact details at Nominet's WHOIS service, because he is a non-trading individual. As honest as the product he's selling, then.

Regards, Tony Sleep

Follow up 2

As well as the comments here, I have had several email discussions with people who have preferred to contact me privately. Counterfeit CS2 has also been purchased from an Amazon seller. As noted above, this has moire on the packaging and has made in Singapore on the box and the disks and on the back of the manual.

Says this correspondent:

'I have now contacted Adobe and spoke to the counterfeit department; I think I spoke to 
the same guy that was mentioned on your blog. He was less than helpful ending the
conversation saying "sorry you were robbed" It took a while for him to tell me that it
was likely to be counterfeit and said that there were a few known cases. It makes
you wonder though if someone is prepared to go to this level of detail to copy
something they're unlikely to have only made a few copies.

I have contacted the Amazon seller who has immediately refunded me my money
(I only received the software today and have not sent it back yet) this suggests
the seller doesn't want any trouble, perhaps a genuine mistake, perhaps he
thought I wouldn't notice.'


I would estimate there are at least mid-hundreds of copies of fake CS2 that have been sold in UK alone. There are 22 on sale right now on The seller I purchased from has to date sold 42 copies of CS2 through eBay. Just 2 are known to be fakes but the probability is that they all are, and he has 5 more on sale right now. That's about £5,000 worth of fraud in 6 weeks. Why on earth is nobody interested in doing anything?

Three weeks ago Adobe UK collected my software in order to open a case against the seller and his supplier. Through eBay's VeRO programme they are able to stop this trade immediately - that is what VeRO exists for - but clearly haven't. In fact, one victim was advised to take it up with eBay himself.

Meanwhile people are being publically robbed, eBay and Paypal are profiting from fees, and Adobe's attitude appears to be 'well that'll teach you to buy direct from us, as it's the only way you can be sure of purchasing legitimate product'.

Nor have Adobe shown any sign of acting against Reynard Software, who allegedly supplied not a counterfeit but a DVD collection of all of Adobe's software complete with keygens, to someone who believed he was buying boxed, new CS3 as shown on their shiny website.

In fact it looks like pirates can proceed with utter impunity, and Adobe's only strategy for dealing with this whole mess is to require honest customers to pay full retail price and jump through activation hoops.

@Doug, yes I am aware of the Gimp, I have used it in the past - and there is also a re-skinned version called Gimpshop, which attempts to be a bit more Photoshop-like in its user interface. But it still has a long way to go, and for serious use is fatally flawed by the lack of colour management.

There are alternatives at various stages of immaturity, with Pixel looking promising. That is cross-platform (XP, OSX, Linux) and handles colour management, but so far is a rather buggy beta. It is extremely impressive for a one-man development, and hopefully will continue to improve.

There is also Picture Window Pro from Digital Light & Colour which has been around a good few years now. It's very good - it handled full 16bit/ch working long before PS did, and had a chromatic aberration filter first - but lacks some crucial stuff like layers.

And of course Adobe's own Elements and Lightroom do enough for some people to avoid Photoshop.


Tony Sleep


Hi Tony,

I think your wishes have come true. There's a fairly mature GNU piece of software - GIMP at

I've been using this applicationfor some time and while not a pro photographer, its capabilities certainly exceed my needs. For converting RAW images to TIFF, there's dcraw (


Hi Tony, followed your link

Hi Tony, followed your link from the Photoshop forums. I'm another UK dupe here. Some speculation I was just pursuing in my own head was that if those of us who are able are burned by this and turn to Adobe for genuine software they're not actually that 'hurt' by this episode at all? It's also occurred to me that Adobe have contributed to this whole mess by forcing online activation and registration onto us. If my software had not activated and registered successfully the moment I installed it I would have been able to get my money back from the seller by returning the product or at the very least I could have claimed from Paypal. If I wasn't a keyboard shortcut user I may still be using the software totally unaware there was a problem. I'm sure there are many out there who still don't realise.

Identical CS3 fakes.

Well, I just also got stung by a PS CS3 from Ebay UK, which was exactly like you guys described - sealed & boxed, seemingly retail, with 'Made in USA' sticker on the box, but 'Made in Singapore' printed in various places, activation missing (including the options that are supposed to be in the Help menu) and registration never sticking/arriving at Adobe.  It also turns out the discs are low quality, mine already had trouble being detected in my drive the third time (I saw the same problem mentioned in another seller's feedback).  There are plenty of these on Ebay at the moment - the resellers don't mention that they're US copies (mine didn't), but they all look the same.

But here's the twist, the packaging & contents were for the plain version of PS CS3 - but after you install it, guess what, it's actually the Extended version! What a great way to entice people to keep quiet, greed kicks in and you think you got lucky somehow - best not mention that to Adobe eh? Except if you're already suspicious (as I was) and really want a legit license, the alarm bells are ringing by now, so maybe not that smart after all.

Adobe UK told me the serial number was invalid. I also tried it on the official US trial version of Extended - it was accepted (so it was at least stolen from a valid one, or key generated), but activation was denied, claiming the total number of activations (2 I guess) had been exceeded. Luckily I got my money back.

I've never seen anything like this - I totally agree that Adobe pricing and change of upgrade policies are to blame. I was looking forward to Smart Filters etc. but for now I'll stick to my trusty CS2. What I'm really worried about now is some malware payload - a gang capable of producing fakes of this quality may well have access to smart programmers - and genuinely smart malware could do a lot of damage without being easily detected ...

CS3 and Reynard Software

Hello Tony,

I`m the guy mentioned above that bought a pirated CS3 from Reynard Software. My version only came in a clear dvd case with a single sided printed cover, the dvd is a purple dye one with a glossy label attached. On the disc is a whole load of adobe software including Illustrator with a single text file full of serial numbers (about ten full pirated items). Also I got my free book which is the genuine article. It`s my guess that no matter what you buy from Reynard you still get the same disc but thats just speculation. I bought on credit card just in case and they recommended that I send it back to Reynard (as stated on reynards web site). I did, book included which took the postage up to £10 due to weight, and it promptly came back to me after a couple of days with `not here!` written accross the address, notice the exclamation mark. A little surfing reveals that Reynards address is in fact just a forwarding address, but they are a limited company which originally gave me some confidence. to be honest I was expecting to be sent the upgrade version instead when I saw the price but thought it was worth the risk. If you want a scan of the cover of mine please email me.

Please don`t put my name anywhere if you quote me, thanks. Anon.

(NB I have redacted the name of this poster to comply: TS)

Is countefeit

I have now had the opportunity to closely compare the counterfeit CD and manual with a legitimate CS2.

  • the shade of red used on the counterfeit's Adobe logos are pinkish-red compared to the scarlet of the official product
  • image repro is slightly darker/lower gamma in the counterfeit. This applies to both CD cover art and throughout the manual. Where colour repro is involved, colour matching is excellent.
  • there are slight traces of moire in halftoned images in the counterfeit. It's not very obvious when viewed alone, but images have a slight grain in the counterfeit. This is a very strong indication of second generation printing via copying rather than original artwork having been used.
  • text printing is of similar quality everywhere, with only very minor typeface variations
  • the counterfeit manual cover stock is just about identical to the real one. Internal pages have slightly more sheen to the coating. The binding and guillotine work on the counterfeit is slightly superior to the real one.
  • as mentioned before, the counterfeited product has 'made in Singapore' where the legitimate UK version has 'made in Ireland'

I think it is safe to say that my previous suspicion that the counterfeit had somehow come off the same lines as Adobe's legitimate product is wrong. This now looks like a very, very good fake copy of a Singapore-made CS2. What differences there are could easily be explained as simply production in a different location, with the sole exception of image halftone quality. The moire is a smoking gun left by copying a screened image.

Without opening the package you will only be able to tell counterfeit product by three attributes:

  • the pinkish red of the Adobe logo on the box front when viewed in daylight. This barely shows in artificial light or flourescent.
  • the large feather on the front of the box. There are very faint vertical lines, moire and a 'grittiness' to the mauve tip, just to the right of the 'spine' of the feather.
  • the box base has 'Printed in Singapore' printed in very small white on black on the left hand side. Ignore the stock label that says 'Made in USA'.

Regards, Tony Sleep

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