Creatives aren’t happy with Adobe and Billie Eilish’s latest collaboration

An image of Billie Eilish next to the Adobe logo
(Image credit: Adobe/Future owns)

Creative contests can sometimes be a great opportunity for artists, offering a chance to showcase work and make connections. But while exposure is useful, it doesn't pay the rent – a fact creatives are reminding Adobe and Billie Eilish about after their latest collaboration was revealed this week.

Adobe has teamed up with the singer to launch 'Make the Merch', a contest calling for merchandise designs for her upcoming tour. But while there are plenty of prizes up for grabs, the contest's small print has fallen foul of the creative community. (Feeling creative? Check out the best Photoshop alternatives.)

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The official rules of the contest state that while the winning artist will receive $10,000, tickets to the tour and a year of Creative Cloud membership, Adobe will "maintain ownership of the grand prize winner's art," and the artist "will not receive any payment from the sale of any merchandise containing his/her Art." 

But what's alarming social media users even more than the winner handing over the licence to their work is that it appears even those who don't win automatically do similar. The rules state that every single entrant "hereby grants to Sponsor, Billie Eilish, and their affiliated companies and designated agents a non-exclusive, transferable, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, unconditional, fully paid license" to their work. In short, Adobe has the right to use every single entrant's work at another time.

Adobe and Billie Eilish Make the Merch website screenshot

A screenshot from the contest website (Image credit: Adobe)

The internet has been quick to condemn the technicalities, with many calling it exploitative. "This is a horrifically predatory practice," one user responds to Eilish's tweet announcing the contest. "You're asking your fans to do work they lose the rights to and are not paid for. You can pay people for their time and energy and their skills, and have it not be a monstrous way to take advantage of young creators during a pandemic." 

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It's possible that the enterprise was well-meaning. There are 11 prizes up for grabs, with 10 runners-up receiving tickets to an Eilish concert (hey, if you're a fan, perhaps that's payment enough). And the winner stands a chance of having their work placed in front of thousands of eyes. But if that's the tip of the iceberg, it's what's underneath that's leaving a sour taste with creatives – namely the potentially thousands of artists handing their work over for nothing. 

Of course, we're big fans of Adobe. Many of its tools are the industry standard for a reason, and we love the brand new (and free) Creative Cloud Express. But judging by the thousands of tweets claiming both Eilish and Adobe to be the bad guy, it's clear that this one hasn't quite hit the spot. Still, if it's inspired you to flex your creative muscles, be sure to check out our guide to the best free graphic design software.

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Daniel John
Senior News Editor

Daniel John is Senior News Editor at Creative Bloq. He reports on the worlds of art, design, branding and lifestyle tech (which often translates to tech made by Apple). He joined in 2020 after working in copywriting and digital marketing with brands including ITV, NBC, Channel 4 and more.