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I recently was quite unexpectedly let go from my current company for reasons unbenownst to me (official reasoning was 'lack of performance'. They said they had had 'multiple meetings with me' to try to improve my performance. That never happened.

The previous weekend, I had installed (but not used) Adobe Photoshop on my personal computer using my company license. Would that reasonably be seen as cause for sudden termination? I was given verbal encouragement as to my performance until the week before the firing, and was given a christmas bonus the month before.

EDIT: I realized that the answer I gave is a little ambiguous, could be answered based on opinion (which is in part what I was looking for). So, I will re-frame in this way:

If I had crossed a line by downloading Adobe Photoshop on my personal machine, would there be any reason for them NOT to tell me, and to cite a difference reason?

closed as off-topic by OldPadawan, Dukeling, IDrinkandIKnowThings, gnat, JazzmanJim Feb 5 at 15:34

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    The title is a bit misleading. You're assuming that you were fired for using a company software license, not simply downloading software. And it was likely more than that in my opinion. – Dan Wilson Feb 2 at 19:21
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    “Would that reasonably be seen as cause for sudden termination?” - You installed a product your company paid for on your personal machine. Yes; That absolutely is grounds for immediate termination. You absolutely crossed a line. – Ramhound Feb 2 at 23:33
  • The previous weekend, I had installed (but not used) Adobe Photoshop on my personal computer using my company license. Would that reasonably be seen as cause for sudden termination? - Yes. That is theft of company property. – joeqwerty Feb 3 at 4:51
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    Usually trite software violations are used as "the reason" to get rid of problem employees because it's a very easy and objectively determined infraction. You probably did something else (even if the photoshop license violation is the one that's logged internally). If really was strictly because of photoshop, they would have told you and made it clear to everyone that you were terminated for cause because of the license infraction. That would have a strong deterrence effect if they actually cared about "grey-area" license violations. – teego1967 Feb 3 at 16:41
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    @520, yet it happens all the time much to the chagrin of IT guys everywhere. In the vast majority of cases no one gets fired. At worst, they're reprimanded. More often than not, it is not even detected, or it's tolerated by both the license owner and the software vendor. People on here like to pretend that "the rules" in employee handbooks and EULA's are commandments with immediate and automatic consequences for violations. They're not. They're selectively enforced and usually with ulterior motivations. – teego1967 Feb 4 at 13:53
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If you were being fired over using their Photoshop licenses, they'd have said so.

Theft of their licenses for very expensive software could be enough of a reason to fire you alone, as it could cause all manner of headaches, including the following:

  1. The inability to deploy the software on a work machine, potentially resulting in lost productivity. When you install the software, you use up one of the licenses they paid for, and Adobe's installers phone home to let Adobe know that the license allocation you used has been used up.

  2. A security scare. Assuming your company is on an Enterprise license this install likely showed up on their deployment manager. So your company has just noticed an unauthorised use of one of their licenses, possibly with no explanation as to what happened. Assuming they've been paying attention.

This list is not exhaustive; I'm sure there's a few legal tidbits that you/the company may be on the hook for but I am not a lawyer.

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    Also bad name for the company. Adobe may blacklist the company or bring very close to it, for this violation . – PagMax Feb 3 at 9:51
  • @PagMax a very good point! I hadn't really touched on the consequences of piracy though, as I wasn't sure this counted (it is a legit license after all). Adobe do send round people to do license checks for enterprise licenses though and this will look VERY dodgy. – 520 Feb 4 at 10:57
  • I believe the current adobe licensing arrangement actually allowed and was even encouraged to do this. But it's been a few years, so your milage may vary. And even if Adobe allowed it, company policy may not have. Adobe wants people to like and use their products and make a number of concessions, within reason, to encourage people to do so. One is allowing for more than one computer to be attached to the license, another is education licenses, etc. You can even get some very low pricing for your non profit. – Bill Leeper Feb 4 at 22:27
  • @BillLeeper the current enterprise license wording seems to go against what you're saying. I'm no lawyer but it seems to suggest one machine per license. – 520 Feb 5 at 16:04
  • Here is the link to the Adobe policy on installation at home. adobe.com/support/service/workathome.html . It seems to indicate by the work/home reference there they are referring to professional licenses. An enterprise license could have different terms depending on how it was negotiated of course. – Bill Leeper Feb 8 at 15:52
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I don't think any of us here could accurately answer the real reason why you were fired. I would review any documentation or emails you had received that are relevant to what management thought of your job performance. If you are friends with any of your former coworkers, you could ask them what they thought about your situation.

Installing business software using a business license on a personal machine probably didn't help matters (especially if it cost the company money for you to do that), but company policies may vary, and even then some managers may take that matter more seriously than others. If there was a policy in, say, an employee handbook about business software licensing, then yes, a violation of that could be cause for termination. However, if that was the case your manager would probably have cited that as their reason for letting you go.

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I would like to address recent addition to the question:

If I had crossed a line by downloading Adobe Photoshop on my personal machine, would there be any reason for them NOT to tell me, and to cite a difference reason?

I could think of one hypothetical: if their Photoshop license is somehow not legitimate and if you use it outside the organization, then Adobe will learn about it. I am no computer expert, but imagine:

When you use PS inside office, your org's firewall fakes license check so that program works OK. You take PS copy home, PS connects to real Adobe server, which throws red flag. Adobe calls FBI and they raid your organization's office.

PS: But seriously, IANAL but this might be case for calling a workplace lawyer. If you were told your performance was OK, and fired week later for performance, something doesn't add up.

PPS: if you are allowed to use personal computer for business (say, personal laptop for work during travel) I would expect you to install work-related software on it

  • I think this is a bit extreme but I do agree with the possibility of illegit software.I thought adobe moved away from permanent licenses and instead used subscription based. If that is the case, then the OP potentially made his company pay more licenses fee and they might not know it is him. – Dan Feb 5 at 18:06
  • @Dan Yeah, i really like their new model. But whatever, the situation is bizzare, and OP probably trying to find any small infarction to explain them being fired. – aaaaaa Feb 5 at 18:25

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