August 24, 2013

Lady Gaga's Twitter Contest is not just controversial, it's illegal

Guest blog by: Karen Lucey, digital media expert


On August 13th, the singer tweeted that “The 2 fans w the most purchase/gift screenshots, radio requests, ‘Applause’ selfies/video, will fly international to go WITH me to iTunes fest!”

After a number of fans complained that they didn’t have enough money to buy multiple copies of her single, Gaga added, “it’s not just about purchases, we will choose creative monsters!”

Asking fans to like, share, comment, retweet, favorite, reply, or take any other social media action to create buzz in hopes of boosting album sales is one thing. Asking fans to buy multiple copies of your single and screenshot their purchases for the chance to fly with you to a music festival is another. It is, by legal definition, a contest—and is therefore subject to all the federal and state laws that regulate contests.

Though it may depend how Ms. Gaga is legally set up – whether she has incorporated herself, which state she has registered her personal business under, and/or which state she is a legal resident of, this contest clearly violates California State law.

According to the California Rules for Operation of Contests and Sweepstakes, Business and Professions Code sections 17539-17539.3, and 17539.35, a "contest" is “any game, puzzle, scheme, or plan which offers prospective participants the opportunity to receive or compete for gifts or prizes on the basis of skill or skill and chance, and which is conditioned wholly or partly on the payment of some value.”

In this contest, Gaga’s Twitter followers have been offered the opportunity to compete for the chance to “fly international to meet [Gaga] and watch the show” (The Itunes Festival) on the basis of purchasing the most copies of her single, making the most requests for it to be played on radio stations, and taking the most creative photographs and videos related to the single.

“The law requires every person who conducts a contest to disclose on each entry blank the deadline for submission of that entry.”

No deadline has been provided, although Gaga did tweet that “I’ll choose the winners by the middle of next week.”

“All contest and promotional puzzles and games must clearly and conspicuously disclose each of the following:

•All the rules, regulations, terms and conditions of the contest.

•The maximum number of puzzles or games, which may be necessary to complete the contest and determine winners.

•The maximum amount of money, including postage and handling fees, which a participant may be asked to pay to win each of the prizes offered.

•The date(s) upon which the contest will terminate, and upon which all prizes will be awarded.

•Whether future contests or tie-breakers, if any, will be significantly more difficult than the initial contest, and the method of determining prize-winners if a tie remains after completion of the last tie-breaker.”

Gaga’s contest fails to meet any of the above legal requirements for a contest.

“Clear and detailed disclosures regarding the nature of the contest and number of contestants also must be made. The total number of contestants anticipated, and the percentage of contestants correctly solving each puzzle (based on prior experience) must be disclosed with the first solicitation and whenever payment of money is required to become or remain a participant.6 The exact nature and approximate value of the prizes must be disclosed clearly and conspicuously whenever prizes are offered”

None of the above required information has been disclosed at any point in the contest.

“Participants must be given, clearly and conspicuously, the opportunity to indicate that they wish to enter this phase of the contest for free. However, participants may be required to pay reasonable postage and handling fees, which must be clearly disclosed whenever their payment is required. Reasonable handling fees shall not exceed $1.50 plus the actual cost of postage.”

Gaga’s contest fails to provide the opportunity for participants to indicate that they would like to take part in this contest without proving they have purchased one or more copies of “Applause.”

These are just some ways this contest violates California State law. It is likely that there are additional violations of federal law, but this is not about outlining each legal violation of the contest. This is meant to demonstrate why this contest has crossed the line and should be stopped.

The laws this contest violates were put into place to protect consumers. It is of utmost importance that as we enter into the era of new media and embrace the unprecedented opportunity to do things in new and creative ways, that we continue to uphold the law and protect people from being manipulated and exploited by contests like this one.


Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and do not provide, or claim to provide, legal advice. Use of material in this article is purely at your own risk. I am not liable for any mistakes in the material presented here.

This article is based on information obtained from www.dca.ca.gov

UPDATE: LADY GAGA’S APPLAUSE / ITUNES MUSIC FESTIVAL CONTEST

If you’re looking for an update on Lady Gaga’s “Applause” / iTunes Music Festival contest, you’re not alone.

Although the singer tweeted “I’ll choose the winners by the middle on next week!” on August 13th, it is now August 23rd. The “middle of next week” has come and gone, and while Gaga’s fans continue to tirelessly promote her single and compete for her attention, no winners have been announced.

When I first heard about the contest, I was shocked that her legal team hadn’t intervened, considering the number of legal requirements involved in holding any kind of contest, let alone an international contest with a high prize value.

I was even more shocked that no one pointed out the contest’s blatant violation of the law. There have been a number of articles complaining that the contest unfairly manipulates the Billboard charts, and a few articles about the drastic and bizarre things people have done (and continue to do) to get the singer’s attention, but nothing about how the contest it completely illegal and needs to be stopped.

The Examiner has reported that some fans have spent hundreds of dollars on the contest (http://exm.nr/13XgvN0). Canada.com has reported (and shown screen shots of) fans offering SEXUAL FAVORS those who purchase the single (http://bit.ly/154d46G).

Search for the contest on Google or Twitter and you will find thousands of contest videos, photos, and messages that are being posted up to this very minute. What more are we waiting for?


ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. WE ARE FORTUNTE ENOUGH TO HAVE LAWS DESIGNED TO PROTECT PEOPLE FROM BEING MANIPULATED AND EXPLOITED IN THIS WAY, AND IT IS TIME TO DEMAND THEY ARE ENFORCED!