Too bad, so sad. That's the attitude Bay Area free-running instructor Caleb Madrid says he's facing after pleading with Mountain Dew parent company Pepsi to "Dew" the right thing.
Madrid says Pepsi awarded its top prize for the Mountain Dew "Dewmocracy" ad contest to a cheater. And that person, Steven Wong, walked away with the top prize -- an undisclosed director's fee and a $200,000 contract to direct a 15-second national commercial.
Here's the back story: Madrid says his longtime friend, Steven Wong, asked to use some video of Madrid and his students for a school project about the sport of free running, also known as parkour. Madrid says he gave him permission and the keys to his office to download the video.
Madrid says a month later, one of his students spotted the video. Not in a school project, but online in the Mountain Dew contest, Madrid claims that the 12-second contest entry is edited so that it appears Wong is performing wicked free running tricks like jumping off a second story building and gliding over table tops. But Madrid says that's an illusion and that he performed the tricks and says Wong took a T-shirt and wristband to make himself look like the real athletes.
That entry was the basis for Wong's national commercial, featuring free running ninjas. It's now airing on MTV and online with directors' credits to Wong.
Madrid hired attorney Melvin Chan to inform Pepsi of the issue. Madrid says he never gave Wong permission to enter his copyrighted video in a contest, and that he thought it was only for academic purposes.
Chan says Pepsi will not comment on whether the video that won the contest violates its own contest rules, which clearly states that "submissions must be the original work of the entrant" and "must not contain copyrighted works." It further states, "submissions that do not comply ... will be disqualified."
Chan sent us the following excerpts from the contest rules: "Sponsor makes the final determination as to which Submissions are eligible to take part in this Contest and be considered for a Finalist position."
And, "the Finalist will acknowledge that the Submission is a "work for hire" and will irrevocably assign and transfer to the Sponsor any and all rights, title, goodwill and interest in and to the Submission, including without limitation, all copyrights, trademarks and waive all moral rights in such Submission."
"Pepsi is the purported legal owner of the Steven Wong's contest submission," says Chan. "Pepsi cannot ignore us by trying to shift their liability to Steven Wong. Pepsi has reserved the right to pursue an action against Steven Wong."
Madrid says he is not angry that Wong won the contest, but he's hurt. He says he would have gladly collaborated had Wong just approached him. “It was heartbreaking ... I’ve known this guy for a long time. To see that happen, it kind of made my heart sink,” says Madrid.
Madrid says he is seeking some compensation for the use of his copyrighted video featuring his tricks and his students from his Guardian Arts school in Milpitas. His attorney, Melvin Chan, says they have reached out to both Pepsi, as well as Steven Wong, to resolve the matter out of court. "We feel like we're being smashed on by a big corporation, a big organization trying to feel they can get away with anything,”Madrid says. Again, no lawsuit has been filed.
Attorney Chan says, "They're trying to tell us to go away we're not gonna go away. We're gonna keep fighting."
We sent Pepsi a detailed list of questions about these allegations. This is the response we received from PepsiCo spokesman Joe Jacuzzi: "Unfortunately this is an issue between two parties. We hope that they can work out a solution to resolve the issue."
We sent Steve Wong several emails, a Tweet, and left him a voicemail but did not receive a response. His attorney Chris Borders also did not respond to our email.
Editors Note: This story was taken off line for a time for legal clearance.