|Dear Sam,I have a question about Adobe Acrobat – My company has been using Acrobat for years to create PDF forms for users where they can enter their details by using the Acrobat Reader program. We typically use this function for forms such as company timesheets and job reports and the forms are used by most of the 400 employees in the company.|
We in the process of expanding the services we provide to our customers and would like to create a form that will likely be filled out by 10,000 or more end-users. Someone in our IT group told me that we might be breaking the licensing rules for Acrobat and that we might want to change our approach to using a web based form instead of Acrobat.
Is my IT team member correct, should I be concerned about using an Adobe PDF form to collect information from all of our end-users?
In a word, yes, you should be concerned.
The Bite Sized Answer to the Question
Each unique Extended Document (i.e. a form that users can fill in and save) created by Acrobat may be distributed to an unlimited number of people. However, if the organization collecting data from these documents only has Acrobat and has not included LiveCycle in their IT operations, they may only legally extract data from 500 unique instances of the form – and that’s 500 regardless if the data comes in electronically, or from hardcopies of the form. Alternatively, you may also distribute a unique Extended Document to 500 recipients and extract data from those forms an unlimited number of times (as might be done if you had 500 employees who had to turn in a timesheet each week).
Organizations do not receive any increase to the above limitations if more licenses of the various editions of Adobe Acrobat are purchased – there is always a 500 capacity limit.
To extract data for more than 500 recipients, you may want to investigate the use of LiveCycle, or as your IT team member mentioned, you may want to use web based forms if that is an option.
Now a Bit of Background to This Answer
With Adobe Acrobat version 8, Adobe added the capabilities to create fill in forms without the requirement of additional enterprise infrastructure systems. These PDF documents are referred to as an “Extended Document”. At the same time, Adobe added language to their End User License Agreement (EULA) that specified what rights a user has when it comes to deploying and, in particular extracting information from these Extended Documents. You can find the EULA on the Adobe site (this link takes you to the English version of the EULA, but many other language options exist in the document). To find the specific details about Extended Documents deployment and data extraction, scroll down to section 16.8.3.
There are a large number of interpretations of the EULA language on the Internet, but I generally like to go to the source when it comes to understanding what a company means. Adobe published a policy document that, like this blog, is not legal advice, but it does try to clarify the rights and limitations.
Finally, Adobe has a product called LiveCycle – this is an enterprise ready data management system that is licensed for the server and is also licensed for the documents that are distributed by the organization – with use rights licensing based either on the number of documents, or the number of users. Adobe has a blog for the LiveCycle product with at least one post that includes scenarios that provide guidance on when you can use the licensing provided with Acrobat and when you should use LiveCycle – it’s worth a read.