Reader Enabled Forms – Read the EULA

Adobe allows forms creators to “enable” certain features in Adobe Reader that would otherwise not be available to users of the free Adobe Reader product.  The most common and most important of these features is the ability to save information that has been entered on a form by someone using Adobe Reader.

This appears to be a great feature to all of us in the forms creation field.  But before you get too excited, you should read the fine print in the Adobe End User License Agreement.  Paragraph 16.8.3 of the EULA states in part:

“For any unique Extended Document you may only either (a) Deploy such Extended Document to an unlimited number of unique recipients but shall not extract information from more than five hundred (500) unique instances of such Extended Document or any hardcopy representation of such Extended Document containing filled form field; or (b) Deploy such Extended Document to no more than five hundred (500) unique recipients without limits on the number of times you may extract information from such Extended Document returned to you filled in by such recipients.”

Paragraph states that you  deploy a document when you “. . . deliver or otherwise make available, directly or indirectly by any means including but not limited to a network or Internet, an Extended Document to one or more recipients.”

Confused?  Simply, you can send out an unlimited number of enabled documents so long as you don’t receive more than 500 responses.  Or you can send out less than 500 enabled documents from which you may receive an unlimited number of responses.

How does this effect someone that is creating a reader enabled court form?  It depends who is deploying the form.  If the court is deploying the form, then they may allow an unlimited number of downloads of the form, but they can only collect information from 500 responses.  The owner of the product used to create the form (Adobe Acrobat Pro) is the same entity that is collecting the information.  This is pretty much an unworkable solution.

Part (b) of Paragraph 16.8.3 doesn’t improve the situation because it would apply to no more than 500 downloads of the same document.  Once again this could not be used.

So what is the solution?  Adobe sells a right managements product called Adobe Livecycle ES that is now called the Adobe Digital Enterprise Platform.  Using this product, you can reader enable your forms for an unlimited amount of downloads and an unlimited amount of submissions.  Using this product, you can also do several other things that would be very helpful such as the ability to enter the information in to a bar code placed on the printed form.  The downside is cost.

What about distribution of reader enabled forms by third parties?  For example, can I reader enable the forms on this site without violating the EULA?  I believe I can.  Assuming that there would be more than 500 copies of a form downloaded, part (a) of Paragraph 16.8.3 would apply.  However, I am not extracting any information whatsoever from the completed versions of the forms.  The people who might complete these forms would be submitting them to the appropriate court.

Additionally, an organization providing legal services to individuals who are unable to afford attorneys could reader enable forms and place them on their website without violating the EULA.

Based on my analysis of the EULA, I have reader enabled the forms on this site.  If you operate a court site and you have reader enabled forms without the appropriate licensing, you should amend your site to include only forms that have not been reader enabled.   If you do not remove the reader enabled forms, you are violating the EULA.

Do you agree with this analysis?

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