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Adobe anti-counterfeiting code trips up kosher users

Banks say yes. Photoshop CS says no

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Adobe's decision to add special code into its software to prevent currency counterfeiting prevents even authorised users from using the technology, according to Register readers.

Currency detection code in Photoshop Creative Suite (CS) which prevents "unauthorized" processing of bank note images is proving a frustration even for authorised users of the technology.

Jason Sheldon, of graphic design firm Plexus Digital Solutions, explains: "I have written authorisation from the Bank of England to 'reproduce and use' images of bank notes, for my clients or for my own artistic use, and yet with the restriction Adobe have implemented, I am unable to do this."

Adobe UK tech support told Sheldon that he shouldn't be scanning bank notes for any reason before he explained that his company creates advertising artwork, as well as CD and DVD cover artwork, featuring bank notes.

In that case, Adobe advised, Sheldon should contact the Bank of England to obtain 'special' bank notes that CAN be scanned and manipulated by Photoshop. The US Treasury produces such notes but the picture is different in the UK.

Unfortunately the Bank of England has no knowledge of these special bank notes, leaving Sheldon snookered.

"Until they [Adobe] remove the 'feature' from Photoshop, we'll not be able to create artwork containing manipulated images of bank notes, nor will we be able to create 'wad' props, like those wads of tenners thrown in the street in the insurance advert on TV," Sheldon told El Reg.

This sets up a Kafkaesque dilemma, as Seldon explains: "Even with authorisation, Adobe still tells us we're unauthorised".

Release the countermeasures

Adobe security countermeasure - although not designed to defend against professional counterfeiters, with counterfeit plates and special paper - is well- intentioned, Sheldon concedes. Unfortunately in trying to defend against less sophisticated counterfeiters its also frustrating legitimate users.

The unannounced introduction of the feature has irked many Photoshop users and provoked a fierce debate on Adobe's forums (registration required) and on bulletin boards. Several people affected by the prohibition have come forward while others are objecting the way Adobe introduced the feature. There were complaints about censorship and concerns about Adobe might be tempted to introduce wider restrictions, for example preventing the manipulation of copyrighted or sexually explicit material.

Photoshop CS was released in November but the limitation only came to light only this month. "I only need the feature occasionally but I still don't want to have a limit on what I can do," Sheldon commented.

Alternative packages such as Paintshop Pro 8 also have features preventing the processing of bank notes and, in any case, Sheldon prefers Photoshop CS, which is the industry-standard package. Plexus doesn't want to go back to using Photoshop 7 because it would lose the extra functionality of Photoshop CS.

"I can understand why Adobe put the feature in there but not its failure to make a patch available. This inconveniences legitimate users and creates the potential of false positives. Even if you follow the guidelines issued by banks you can't get it to work," Sheldon commented.

Sheldon is in dialogue with Adobe and is hopeful he can thrash out a workaround with the company. ®

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