Two men charged with stealing $ 20 million in YouTube music royalties, claiming they own the rights

TL; DR: The two men face decades in prison and millions of dollars in fines for allegedly stealing $ 20 million in royalties from what is almost certainly YouTube. How did they do it? By simply stating that they own the rights to over 50,000 songs in Spanish.

MarketWatch José “Chanel” Teran, 36, from Scottsdale, Arizona, and Webster “Yenddy” Batista, 38, from Doral, Florida, are reportedly charged with fraud, claiming their company MediaMuv owns the rights to the songs.

The scheme began in 2017 when they allegedly approached a third-party royalty management firm, designated AR only. In some cases, fake recordings of the respective artists have been used to claim that the couple controls the music rights.

The company, which is identified in court documents as YT, presumably YouTube, approved the pair for the platform’s Content ID system, which must identify songs that appear in uploaded videos so that copyright holders can charge money for ads. They also signed a sound recording and audiovisual content license that allows Google to offer music to users in exchange for monetization income. Gizmodo

One track, Piso 21’s song “Me Llamas”, earned Teran and Batista over $ 100,000 from over 700 million YouTube video views.

In 2018, MediaMuv was reported to the royalty administrator by someone claiming to be the copyright holder of one of the songs in its catalog, but Teran said that someone did not deserve the royalty “just because he said [sic] he has the right, ”which the couple allegedly did.

The scam continued until April 2021 when over $ 20 million was raised. Some of the money was spent on a $ 550,000 mansion, $ 129,000 for Teslas, $ 93,000 for a BMW hybrid and $ 62,000 for jewelry.

Teran and Batista were charged with 30 counts of conspiracy, electronic fraud, money laundering and aggravated identity theft. They face 37 years in prison and a fine of up to $ 250,000 for each felony.

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