Author Archives: ben

The European Soccer Championship: Guide

Now that the Boston Celtics have won the “world” championship, eyes are firmly set on the Euro soccer championship. The tournament has already moved to the quarter finals. It is hard to understate the impact of this event on life in most of Europe (and many other parts of the world).
Even if you are not interested in the game itself, perhaps you might enjoy my general observations on the meaning of the euro soccer championship:

• Law of supply and demand: International soccer championships are a special occasion. The European championship occurs only every 4 years. The World championship also takes place every four years. This means that there is always one year of “nothingness” in between each tournament. Artificial scarcity of supply => increase in demand.

• Global warming. Streets are empty during most games. Al Gore loves soccer championships (except victories for Turkey, see below).

• Numbers don’t add up:
o Some small countries (Croatia, Holland) perform really well on a consistent basis even though they have a small population. Most likely explanation: something in the faucet water.
o The distortion of money: one of the very richest soccer leagues in the world, England, has the best teams (see Champions league results) but underperforms on the world stage. One explanation: the money allows them to import foreign players, lowering the amount of national players in crucial positions in the league (beware MLS).

• Soccer & Steroptypes: Germany: it is not always pretty, but the outcome is always efficient. Gary Lineker famously described soccer as a game ” for 22 people that run around, play the ball, and one referee who makes a slew of mistakes, and in the end Germany always wins.”. The German soccer team always manages to beat some of the most stylish, talented teams and advance to the final stages. This years seems no different. In the first quarter final Germany beat an immensely talented Portuguese squad (3-2). The bookmakers (who are also very efficient) favor Germany as the final winner (1/4) of the tournament.

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Posted in Etc | 1 Comment

P2P File Sharing Update: The Role of (good old) Off-line Networks

British survey findings on young people's music ownership show that teenagers and students have an average of more than 800 illegally copied songs each on their digital music players.

Here is an excerpt: The research also showed that half of 14 to 24-year-olds were happy to share all the music on their hard drive, enabling others to copy hundreds, or thousands, of songs at any one time. Although illegal copying has become widespread, the scale of the problem uncovered by the University of Hertfordshire left the music industry surprised. On average every iPod or digital music player contained 842 illegally copied songs. Fergal Sharkey, former lead singer of the Undertones and now chief executive of British Music Rights, said: “I was one of those people who went around the back of the bike shed with songs I had taped off the radio the night before. But this totally dwarfs that, and anything we expected.”

I don’t see what there is to be surprised about. Even if the entertainment industry’s scare tactics (lawsuits) have moved file-sharing traffic away from major P2P sites to smaller sites and various torrents, the overall volume of sharing might still be high. Besides, free copynorms among young people are not going away. My own study on the interaction between deterrence and copynorms shows that scare tactics may strengthen pro-copy norms among file-sharers. This new study shows just how much portable storage capacity boosted off line sharing.

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Posted in Law: Copyright and DMCA | 3 Comments

European Union and the Democratic Deficit

Friday was a dark day for many in Europe (and not only for those in France that were watching their national team lose 1-4 against Holland at the European soccer championship).

In a referendum Irish voters said no to the Lisbon Treaty (53,4%). This is a new blow for the EU after the trauma of the Spring of 2005 when the new European Constitution was rejected in referendums held in Holland and France.

EU leaders thought that they had figured it out this time. The Lisbon Treaty includes (1) some of the essential components of the rejected Constitution (institutional reform, stronger role for the parliament etc), (2) none of the focal points that plagued its predecessor (constitutional bells and whistles such as the EU flag and hymn) (3) many unreadable sections and undecipherable wordings.

Now who would object to such a fine document? EU leadership was not planning on giving voters a chance to object anyway. So far the Lisbon treaty had been ratified by 18 member states without organizing national referendums.

So it is painful for the EU that the outcome of the only referendum organized is negative- especially because Ireland is one of the countries that supposedly benefited a lot from the EU (40 billion euros in subsidies aided its visionary turn to IT-foreign investments).

What’s next? The Lisbon Treaty will certainly survive. What about Ireland’s position in the EU? Perhaps a slimmed down version could be adopted in Ireland including some of the essential institutional components.

(more below)

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Posted in Politics: International | 3 Comments

Hello + B-e-Id Card

Dear readers of,

I would like to thank Michael for inviting me to be a guest. It is an honor. His kind, generous and ridiculously positive introduction is much appreciated. It might have set expectations that will leave most readers surprised, disappointed, even disgusted with my posts. But this will not stop me.

True to this prediction, I will start with a confession. I am Belgian. (1) But do not worry. None of my posts will be about Belgium (except this one, too late now).

Most people think Belgium is pretty insignificant. The Daily show expressed this sentiment in a couple of episodes where John Stewart suddenly screamed that he “hates” Belgium.(2) The irony being that it is absurd to hate Belgium. Why would anyone hate something so small and harmless? (mind you, this is a cunning tactic that has been very effective for us)

To Belgium’s defense, a quick note on one of Belgium’s many wonderful accomplishments [drums rolling]: the Belgian identity card. This prestigious, much lauded project was introduced a few years ago (notice the Microsoft connection).

In fact, I was about to use my very own “electronic-Belgian-ID-card” to file Belgian taxes on line the other day. But I changed my mind upon discovering that I need to buy a card reader for my pc (or wait for a 24 code card to be mailed by snail mail). Also, recollection of the security and privacy issues did not help either. Yesterday, a new report was presented at the e-Identity conference in the Hague further detailing the huge security issues involved. Hey, at least its better for our government to fail than not to try at all. Or is it? Solutions for the card are in the works. So are the invoices by the various e-security companies. This brings me back to filing my taxes.

More about Belgium, European soccer, copyright law & the music industry, taxes and laments on the strong euro in future post.

(1) note by author: country still exists until further notice, June 13 2008.
(2) a link to the clip would of course be more effective but could not locate it on the Web

Posted in ID Cards and Identification, Law: Privacy | 10 Comments