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BMI Helping Artists Recover Unclaimed Royalties

Posted in News on May 4, 2004

In a press conference held on May 4, New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer announced that a deal had been reached with top record companies to return nearly $50 million in unclaimed royalties to thousands of artists and performers. The settlement is the result of a two-year investigation by Spitzer's office that found many artists and writers were not being paid by these companies because contact had not been maintained. BMI has been working with the Attorney General's office to help locate BMI artist/songwriters who may be entitled to a portion of these royalties. At this point in time, the royalties being distributed pertain only to recording artists royalties.

Pictured in the Attorney General's office after the press conference are ASCAP's Jim Steinblatt, the Recording Academy's Daryl Friedman, the R&B Foundation's Judy Tint, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, and BMI's Frances Preston and Fred Cannon. photo © 2004 BMI

"As a result of this agreement, new procedures will be adopted to ensure that the artists and their descendants will receive the compensation to which they are entitled," Spitzer said.

The participating companies include Sony Music Entertainment, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Warner Music Group, UMG Recordings, Universal Music, EMI Music Publishing, EMI Music North America, BMG Songs, Careers-BMG Music Publishing, BMG Music and the Harry Fox Agency.

Click here for a list of contacts from participating companies

In addition, each company has agreed to have the heads of their royalty, accounting and legal departments meet regularly to review the status of royalty accounts and take steps to improve royalty payment procedures. They have also agreed to comply with New York State's Abandoned Property Law, which requires that if an artist or his or her family cannot be found, unclaimed royalties be "escheated" or turned over to the state. The state then holds these monies until a claim is made.

Since the investigation began two years ago, more than $25 million has already been returned to those who were owed funds. An additional $25 million is expected to be distributed as part of this settlement.

Some of BMI's biggest songwriter/artists are among those who are owed royalties, including David Bowie, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and Gloria Estefan.

Earlier this year, BMI made a similar move urging songwriters and composers to keep their addresses up-to-date to ensure that they receive royalty payments.