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A letter from a 10-year-old inspired Tesla to launch a video contest

A letter from a 10-year-old inspired Tesla to launch a video contest


But read the Terms and Conditions before clicking the Submit button

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Tesla launched a video contest for fans of the brand, with the opportunity for their work to be promoted by the company, and a chance to attend a product launch. While the contest has a heartwarming origin, it’s worth examining the contest’s rules and to think twice before hitting the Submit button.

On March 1st, a father passed along a letter from his daughter to Tesla CEO Elon Musk. The letter is sweet: the fifth grader suggested that because Tesla doesn’t put together its own advertisements, it should run a contest to find the best one from the company’s fans. Musk said on Twitter that he liked the idea, and that the company would do it. And it is: Tesla just launched Project Loveday, a contest to find the best 90 second, fan-made commercial.


The contest will run through May 8th, according to the Terms and Conditions, in which users can upload their videos and submit the link to the company through a form. Videos have to be 90 seconds or less, have to relate to Tesla or SolarCity’s products or its “mission to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy,” and must be suitable for all ages. No violence, nudity, or swearing.

Once submitted, a panel of judges will select 10 winning submissions, which it’ll share on social media. Three of the top scoring submissions will “receive additional promotion,” and a grand prize winner will “be invited to and introduced at a future Tesla product launch event,” with the company picking up the tab for travel and accommodations.

Once you click the submit button, Tesla gets to use your video, in any way it wants

In submitting their video however, users sign away a bunch of rights to their work. They grant Tesla a perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free license to use the video in any way that the it sees fit, even in “technology now known or later developed.” It’s not just your video that it can use: the company can also use your name and likeness perpetually. Tesla has since updated the terms and conditions to remove perpetually from the likeness clause.

The legal language is pretty typical for these sorts of contests, but it means that even if your video isn’t selected as a winner, Tesla could conceivably use it for marketing at some point in the future.

That might not bother some people, but similar contests have caused some controversy. It can be seen as a way for the company to advertise without having to actually pay the creators for it. A similar situation arose when Amtrak ran a contest for a writer’s residency onboard their trains a couple of years ago. Then, a number of writers pointed out that the contest could be used as a way for the company to simply get some cheap ad copy.

Update March 5th, 2:45PM ET: Reached for comment, a Tesla spokesperson noted that the company has updated the terms and conditions to address the long-term issues, and that the company intends to only use the rights for this particular project.