For all the musicians and songwriters out there who are frustrated with the royalty payouts from YouTube, maybe it’s time to explore your royalty statements a little closer to make sure that you’re getting everything you deserve. In perhaps the boldest YouTube scam yet, two men where recently charged with collecting around $20 million in illegal royalties from the service by falsely claiming to control the royalty rights to a catalog of songs.
How could this happen? It’s all pretty dodgy. The two men (Jose “Chanel” Teran, 36, of Scottsdale, Ariz. and Webster “Yenddi” Batista, 38, of Doral, Fla.) claimed their company, MediaMuv Inc., controlled the rights to a large back catalog of music.
In 2017, they approached a third party royalty management company with forged documents from a number of artists claiming that they had the rights to manage their music. The docs looked authentic enough that the company proceeded with the collections.
Over the years the two collected more than $50,000 each from 21 Latin artists before their scheme was discovered. Needless to say, they never paid any of the artists or songwriters a dime during that period.
It’s possible that the two men believed that since the artists were all Latin, they wouldn’t be sophisticated enough to understand how YouTube royalties work. Obviously they were wrong.
While the article that outlined the YouTube scam doesn’t provide many numbers, it implies that the two men uploaded a lot of videos featuring the falsely-claimed music and perhaps even used bot plays to push up the view count.
This isn’t new and many artists have tried the same thing, but it’s usually on their own behalf and not stealing from another artist. All the streaming services are now hip to this and can spot the signals of bot activity pretty quickly (which may be what happened here), so don’t be tempted to try it.
The men are now charged with 30 counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and aggravated identity theft and could face years behind bars. Needless to say, that’s not worth of few years of living like you’re really rich.