YouTube Ordered to Pay $1.6M to ASCAP

A district judge has ordered YouTube to pay $1.61 million in royalties to U.S. songwriters, and $70,000 per month going forward. The judgment came last Wednesday in New York, but we didn’t see coverage of it until today when Techdirt picked it up; there was an earlier report on Law360 that you can read if you register. Songwriters, like everyone else, want a piece of YouTube; for instance the co-writer of Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” recently claimed he’s been exploited by the “rickrolling” phenomenon, only earning £11 from Google for his trouble.

The particulars of the fee are only temporary as YouTube and ASCAP go to trial over blanket licenses for ASCAP’s songs in a case brought last May. As Techdirt describes it,

“The court seemed to take a ‘split the difference’ approach, as ASCAP had asked for $12 million for all music streamed between 2005 and the end of 2008 (and another $7 million for 2009). YouTube, in response, had suggested $79,500 for 2005 through the end of 2008 and then $20,000 per quarter ongoing. The court rejected both proposals, and dinged both companies for weakly supporting their positions, or being somewhat misleading in their assertions.”

Either way or somewhere in between, YouTube will be paying songwriters on a regular basis going forward. And it’s just one more expense for the site that’s been widely dinged for its lack of revenue. ASCAP represents some 350,000 U.S. composers, songwriters, lyricists and music publishers.

While YouTube recently announced a joint venture with Universal Music Group called Vevo, other music rights groups have pulled their work off the site after unsuccessful contract negotiations, including Warner Music Group, the UK’s Performing Rights Society and German royalty collections group GEMA.


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