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BT chief speaks fluent PowerPoint

Boss sets telco against royalty share

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CISAC BT's Dutch chief executive Ben Verwaayen may be the first keynote speaker to talk entirely in PowerPoint™: He's reduced his speeches to a series of motivational slide headings.

Verwaayen was delivering a keynote to the Copyright Summit, CISAC's global event for authors, writers and composers.

The problem is his slide headings are often confusing, or plain contradictory. For example, we think Verwaayen was trying to warn authors about complacency. This is how he put it:

"Technology is here. You are no longer comfortable. Technology is easy..."

His advice on future business opportunities was similarly baffling: "The conventional model still has a future. But less," he continued. "Its a mass market of one. Numero Uno. Me."

That's not a mass market, you might think - correctly.

Verwaayen's technique is to assemble a montage of contradictions, presumably to soften up the audience so his punchline has more impact. This must work great when BT management go on their weekend retreats, but it mystifies the listeners even more when the payoff is as baffling as his was today.

Verwaayen's parting advice was pulled straight from the Stategy Boutique. He advised creators to make their new business models, "Global. Open. And Real-Time."

But this feisty audience didn't need to be told how to suck eggs. The attendees here are artists, authors and the collection societies, and these societies waste no time in recognizing new technology-based businesses - often before striking deals (as with the original Napster) while other rights holders are trying to close them down.

So Verwaayen was asked if he'd share the revenue from his network with the creators.

"To be honest, it's nonsense," he said. "You'd better think of a way out of the box because if you think someone will solve your problem, they won't."

The response was met with boos. One pointed out that everyone was making money from music except the musicians.

"Oh, but he will pay. What does he think the value of the network is without the stuff people want? Why does he think they're there?"

He has a point: users aren't flocking to the internet to see clips of cats falling down stairs. We're figuring out how much value there is in "user generated content": by OFCOM's logic it's a "market failure" (which necessitates the creation of a £100m a year quango, the Public Service Publisher) - and no one's going to build a BT-sized business off that. ®

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