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I found this claim originally in Wikipedia, quoted from the Register.

The return to the artists is pitiful; ironic 80s icon Rick Astley's Never Going To Give You Up was played 39 million times on YouTube, but he received $12 for his performance share - Astley didn't compose the song, so receives only a performer's share of the sound recording copyright.

A Google search reveals a large number of interesting facts websites quoting this figure, but without a reference.

  • Pete Waterman, who co-wrote the song, complained that in 2008 he only got £11 from Google. – Oliver_C Aug 27 '12 at 8:47
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    I changed the title because the claim is he only made $12 from YouTube, not $12 only from all royaties ever. If your claim is he only made $12 ever, then please find a supporting claim. – going Aug 27 '12 at 9:13
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Firstly, it wasn't until 2011 that YouTube settled the 2007 lawsuit to allow artists and publishers to enter into a licensing agreement with YouTube. This was after the "$12" quote was provided above.

As this article explains an artist/publisher has the following three options: keep the song there, take it down or make money off of it.

If the third option is chosen the song appears with the artist information and typically a link to iTunes. You can see an example of this here where a user has uploaded a version of Smashing Pumpkins "Disarm" and it has been marked as such.

However, if you look at the main RickRoll video from Youtube, the one with 64 million views, it isn't marked with artist information. However, the VEVO one does and so does another one that was added later.

So they have chosen not to make money from the original video. Thus the $12 is realistic, maybe the $12 wasn't even made from that version of the video. Considering the VEVO video now has over 50 million views and there are other videos marked as copyright, someone is making money from them. However, how much Rick gets directly from this is not currently public information.

  • Personal opinion, I assume the decision not to make money from the RickRoll video is due to them not making benefit from someone who has provided Rick so many opportunities in the past few years. – going Aug 27 '12 at 9:31
  • The first of your three RickRoll links is blocked in the UK by "Channel 5 and WMG". The other two have advertising – Henry Aug 27 '12 at 11:35
  • Interesting how their link is still to ITunes rather than Google Musisc – Casebash Aug 27 '12 at 12:21

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