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Microsoft Reorganizes, Big Brother in Iran & More…

FOSS Week in Review–Part 2

Now that we got last week out of the way, let’s look at what happened this week–or at least news that came to our attention this week…

You can now actually own digital comics

Digital rights and anti-DRM activists should be a little happy to learn that a major player in the comics’ world has decided to make actual ownership of its comics possible.

Until now, the comic book publishers have exhibited the same concerns over digital ownership as the Hollywood movie makers and the RIAA. In other words, they’ve been downright paranoid. Although we haven’t heard any stories of mass suing of consumers for illegal downloads (we’re not even sure to what extent there are illegal downloads of comics), we do know they’ve tended to tightly control digital rights to their products.

We haven’t read comics since the days of Little Lulu, but as we understand it the traditional model for digital comics is for the content to stay in the cloud, evidently on the comic publisher’s server. The purchaser, who pays about the same for a digital comic as for a print copy, views the comic through a special application such as ComiXology. The product is never downloaded onto the purchaser’s hard drive.

That’s starting to change, however. Wired has informed us that Image Comics is now going to offer downloadable versions of their content from their web site. Their comics will still be available through the traditional channels, but will now also be available in PDF, EPUB, CBR or CBZ formats as well.

“‘My stance on piracy is that piracy is bad for bad entertainment,’ Image Comics publisher Eric Stephenson told Wired in an exclusive interview. ‘There’s a pretty strong correlation with things that suck not being greatly pirated, while things that are successful have a higher piracy rate. If you put out a good comic book, even if somebody does download it illegally, if they enjoy it then the likelihood of them purchasing the book is pretty high. Obviously we don’t want everybody giving a copy to a hundred friends, but this argument has been around since home taping was supposedly killing music back in the ’70s, and that didn’t happen. And I don’t think it’s happening now.’”

The door has been opened. Other comic publishers are likely to follow.

Singapore’s new web regs draw fire from major web players

When Singapore announced in late May that they’d be requiring certain news sites covering the Singapore beat to be licensed and regulated, at first mainly only bloggers and free speech advocates raised much of a ruckus. This week, however, Reuters reported that some big Internet players have now announced their displeasure with the new scheme:

“Web giants Facebook Inc, eBay Inc, Google Inc and Yahoo! Inc have said the revised rules ‘have negatively impacted Singapore’s global image as an open and business-friendly country’.

“The comments, made in a letter to Singapore’s minister of communications and information by the Asia Internet Coalition, an industry body, are the first sign that Singapore’s success in wooing major players to its shores is not assured. Google, eBay, Facebook and Yahoo all have a major presence in the city-state.”

The new regulation would require affected websites to take down any article deemed objectionable by the authorities within 24 hours. In addition, these sites would have to post a performance bond of over $39,000 US.

Singapore’s rationale is that the new rules would only bring websites under the same regulations as newspapers and other media.

All Iranians to receive government issued email addresses

It probably won’t surprise anybody that Big Brother is evidently alive and well in Iran, despite a supposed election victory for the champions of freedom and sanity there. We learned this week from Reuters that Iran has announced plans to assign government issued email addresses for its citizens:

“Communications Minister Mohammad Hassan Nami did not say whether the national email addresses would be mandatory or how they might affect Iranians’ use of their own private addresses. But he said the official addresses must be used for electronic communication with government agencies.

“‘For mutual interaction and communication between the government and the people, from now on every Iranian will receive a special email address,’ the semi-official Mehr news agency quoted Nami as saying. ‘With the assignment of an email address to every Iranian, government interactions with the people will take place electronically.’

“The email addresses, using the ‘mail.post.ir’ domain, will help maintain citizens’ privacy, he said. Data centers are to be set up throughout Iran to support the new system.”

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer captured at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2010

Iran has already announced plans to require Iranians to subscribe to a domestic Internet that would greatly isolate them from the web used by the rest of us.

Microsoft reorganization evidently solidifies Ballmers position

We heard early in the week that Microsoft was getting ready to make some big changes in their management structure on Thursday. Although we’re of the opinion that a company that’s been as mismanaged as Microsoft seems to have been for at least the last five years should be thinking of pulling a CEO switch, that seems to be far from the case.

According to Alexei Oreskovic’s Reuters’ article, the changes only serve to strengthen CEO Steve Ballmer’s position in Redmond:

“For all the changes promised, the move reinforces Ballmer’s grip on the company’s direction and further muddies the succession picture.

“‘There’s still no heir apparent or any succession strategy that has become apparent,’ said David Smith, an analyst with industry research firm Gartner. ‘It sounds like he wants to run it in a more centralized style.’

From what we can see, the move indeed places more power in Ballmer’s hands. It also appears the new structure will make it much more difficult for different divisions of Microsoft to innovate or react quickly to market conditions.

However, it wouldn’t surprise us if these changes turn out to be short term and end with Mr. Ballmer’s forced resignation in the near future. Then again, maybe not. We would’ve thought him gone a couple of years ago if things made sense in Redmond.

Richard Stallman and Julian Assange

click to enlarge

A parting shot

We saw this picture of Richard Stallman and Julian Assange on Facebook last night. It was evidently taken recently inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London where Assange has been holed-up, as they’re holding a photo of Edward Snowden, who’s evidently still holed-up at the airport in Moscow. We couldn’t resist passing it on to you. Can we say “Free Julian Assange” without evoking ire? Probably not, so we won’t.

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That does it for another week. We’ll see you at the end of next week with another Week in Review. Until then, may the FOSS be with you…

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