Millions in Unpaid YouTube Royalties Up for Grabs

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Members of performing rights organization SOCAN have until the end of May to claim their portion of the royalties, held by YouTube in an escrow account.

The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) has alerted its members that they have a three-month window to make a claim to receive their portion of the millions of dollars of unpaid YouTube royalties generated in the U.S. from the use of their music in music videos.

A typical payout figure cannot be estimated, Jennifer Brown, SOCAN's vp of licensing, tells Billboard. "That would be impossible to pinpoint, since every situation is different. But whether it's $5 or $5 million, we encourage rights-holders to investigate so that they can be sure to receive what they have earned."

Members of the performing rights organization can do the form-filling themselves (if they hold exclusive control of their administrative sync rights) or go through the interactive streaming mechanical royalty agency Audiam, which SOCAN acquired in 2016. The YouTube Liquidation Agreement must be completed by the end of February if it not going through Audiam, which has a window of March 1 through May 31, 2017 to process the claim.

Audiam can identify compositions that have earned synchronization royalties in YouTube from U.S. views between August 1, 2012 and December 31, 2015 and add missing information triggering the release and payment of the royalties.

The royalties, currently held by YouTube in an escrow account, were generated from the share of paid advertising revenues from views of YouTube videos during that time period.

The process is open to all songwriters and music publishers who control the administration of the synchronization right in the U.S.

After May 31, 2017, any unclaimed royalties from the pool will be distributed by YouTube to participants based on market share data.

The press release breaks down a possible scenario: "For example, if $1,000,000 in royalties are not paid out due to missing information, and that information is not entered into the YouTube system by May 31, 2017, then the $1,000,000 is split between all of the other entities participating in the Liquidation Agreement."

Becoming an Audiam client is free. An administration fee of 20 percent is applied to distributed royalties for SOCAN members (normally it's 25 percent).