Why Isn’t Photoshop Illegal?


You guys. I think I’ve stumbled onto something pretty fucking big here.

I was on Facebook the other day, and unfortunately, so were a lot of my backwater relatives. Normally their ignorant screeds are easy to scroll past and ignore, but yesterday my entire timeline was filled with a bunch of racist and problematic images of the Kim and Kanye’s Vogue cover. Someone put a watermelon in Kanye’s hands, and in another, there’s a turban on Kim’s head. Really, people? While obviously the images were just created in Photoshop, I started to wonder just why exactly we let people get away with this kind of stuff. Why are we allowing them to use a program that facilitates their toxicity?

I’ll admit, I use Photoshop myself. It’s great for removing the scars under my nipples and smoothing the rosacea in my cleavage. It does wonders for shrinking my labia, and it’s basically kicked my sext game up to the next level. But, Photoshop isn’t a necessity. I could easily just stop sending nudes to local DJs and find some sort of internal sense of self-worth. I like Photoshop, but I’m not in love with it.

I grew up in a family of photographers and graphic designers. I was around Photoshop constantly as a child and I know how to use it. To me, it’s not this big scary thing with a bunch of buttons I could accidentally click on and lose hours of hard work. A part of me still feels that schools should be required to teach students how to properly and safely use Photoshop, it is after all, a powerful tool that can be used for good purposes. But, I can’t let my experiences with the program taint my opinion of its cultural and societal impact. There’s a lot of people out there who use Photoshop recklessly. For now, most of them are using it to clumsily fake nudes of that bitch from Duck Dynasty, but what happens when they stop jacking off to that bitch from Duck Dynasty, and start expressing their racist views with it? What happens when they poorly place a bone through the president’s nose?

The bottom line is that if Photoshop is racist at all, then it’s racist period. It’s just that simple.

But let me guess; you want to say that a program can’t be racist –- that it’s just a tool — that image editing software doesn’t hurt people, and only people hurt people. Well let me tell you something – when a statistically significant amount of those people are using that software to hurt others – the software is just as bad as the perpetrator. That software is problematic.

A lot of people like to point to the fact that the majority of people creating racist memes with Photoshop aren’t using legally licensed versions of it. In fact, the vast majority of racist Photoshopped images can be traced back to stolen and cracked copies of the program. But, how exactly do you think those criminals got access to the program? At some point in time, someone must have legally purchased a copy, and from that copy, cracks were created. If we eliminate the source, we eliminate the problem.

Even in the realm of legal use, Photoshop is used for malicious intentions. The fashion industry employs it specifically in its continuing war on true universal beauty. Instead of just letting Lena Dunham be the powerful, gorgeous woman that she is, Vogue had to airbrush and retouch her to make her conform to bullshit standards of attractiveness. You know what didn’t need to be Photoshopped? Her mind -– where true beauty lives.

We can’t just wait around for the world to change because we want it to. We need legislation now. There’s got to be some technicality with which we can ban the use of Photoshop on legal precedent, right? If the federal government can step in and declare Napster an illegal enterprise due to their lack of diligence in monitoring potentially harmful traffic, why can’t we pass legislation to ban Photoshop, or perhaps install some sort of monitoring software that detects racist elements in the images people are manipulating?

There is of course the question of freedom of expression and our constitutional rights, but when the founding fathers drafted the constitution, they were living in a much different world. They did their best to create guidelines with which their descendants would be able to create legislation that preserved our original freedoms, but despite their intelligence and foresight, they couldn’t predict everything. Just like the second amendment never considered something like military style assault rifles, the first amendment could never foresee damaging software like Photoshop.

It’s not unconstitutional or unpatriotic to understand that we need to pass legislation that reflects our current world, instead of living in the past. It’s not wrong to say that we should abandon some of our freedom to protect the safety and mental health of the people that matter most in this world -– victims.