In January 2021, development and support for Adobe Flash was discontinued. That marked the end of an era but in reality, Flash wasn’t quite dead. Flash Player is still available in China, something that was exploited by the Clean Flash project to continue making the software more widely and safely available. Adobe has now used the DMCA to shut the project down.
As far back as 2012, Adobe was planning for the eventual demise of its iconic Flash Player. Gradually superceded by new technologies, the importance Flash diminished over time and as dawn broke on 2021, Adobe ceased to develop and support it. Well, sort of.
While Adobe has indeed stopped shipping new global versions of Flash, the technology is still supported in two markets – Enterprise and China via Flash.cn – a site managed by Zhong Cheng Network, the only authorized distributor of Flash in China.
This was a significant move for local companies that still rely on Flash Player but also provided a limited opportunity to keep Flash alive, something of importance to those who don’t want historic Flash content to be rendered useless.
Flash Content Consigned to History?
By effectively abandoning Flash, Adobe consigned huge volumes of reliant content to the history books, including games and other interactive content. For many of today’s internet users looking only for the next big thing, that isn’t much of an issue but there are those who view Flash’s contribution to the web as worthy of preservation.
The problem, however, is obtaining a working copy of Flash outside China that is also secured by frequent updates and isn’t a risk to users’ machines.
Clean Flash Installer
The Chinese version of Flash receives one security update per month and can be freely downloaded from Flash.cn but also has significant strings attached. It comes preinstalled with an adware program called Flash Helper which, according to security sources, exhibits malicious behavior. Developed by ‘darktohka’ and previously located on Github, Clean Flash Installer solves these problems and more.
“Clean Flash Installer installs this up-to-date freely available version of Flash, but it comes WITHOUT the adware program,” darktohka informs TorrentFreak.
“As such Clean Flash Installer can be used by anyone to use a relatively secure version of Flash Player after the support for Flash ended.”
The developer says that he was inspired to create his tool to keep Flash content alive, something which he says was a huge part of his childhood. Adobe appears to be less enthusiastic about his work and following a DMCA notice filed with Github, the developer platform has nuked the project.
DMCA Takedown Notice
In a DMCA complaint filed with Github on October 4, 2021, a legal representative acting for Adobe explains that the Clean Flash Installer project breaches copyright law.
“Adobe Inc. is the copyright owner and I am authorized to act on its behalf. Our Adobe Flash Player software has been infringed. The files in question contain our proprietary Adobe Inc. owned copyrighted materials (software code),” it reads, adding that the project must be removed.
Needless to say, darktohka is very unhappy that Adobe has taken his project down.
Developer Rejects Claims of Copyright Infringement
“As this is my passion project, I am deeply disappointed with Adobe’s action. The repository in question only hosts the installer code for the project, which was written by myself and does not contain any infringing code,” he explains.
“Adobe Flash was a huge part of our childhood, and it’s gut-wrecking that Adobe would rather have everyone use super out-of-date versions of the software when versions with security updates are freely available. It makes no sense for them to DMCA an installer that was written independently and makes use of the freely available and downloadable version of the project.”
To find out why Adobe took the project down and learn the basis for its copyright complaint, TorrentFreak reached out to Adobe. The software company did not respond to our requests for comment so that leaves us with the developer’s explanation of how Clean Flash Installer works and why the repository wasn’t infringing.
According to darktohka, the repo did not include any Adobe code and the Adobe DMCA complaint clearly states that there were no anti-circumvention issues. The installer is a .NET framework project that was written from scratch, without using any Adobe assets.
It’s simply a tool to install Flash without the Flash Helper system service, he insists, noting that security companies consider it to be malicious.
Flash Helper Has Other Issues
Another reason cited by darktohka for disposing of Flash Helper is that it contains a killswitch that can be activated by Adobe at any time to deactivate newer versions of Flash.
“The reason why Flash Helper is a separate application is because Adobe Flash is signed by Adobe itself, but they presumably do not want to sign malware. Therefore, Flash Helper is a completely separate entity that Adobe Flash only communicates with,” he says.
“By default, if Flash Helper is not installed, Flash will cease to work after 3 seconds (and will show that Flash Helper must be installed).”
Overall, darktohka is disappointed with Adobe’s takedown notice since all he hoped to achieve with his project was the effective preservation of Flash content to be played in a safe and secure environment. Whether that will be possible moving forward is unclear but in the meantime, the project is still available on Gitlab.
Many thanks to TorrentFreak for the breaking news.