Monday, December 03, 2012

Singer forced to pay $1 million reward promised on YouTube

Have you ever had something happen, and made a pronouncement along the lines of "I'd give x if I could just get y back?" 34-year-old rapper Ryan Leslie did that, but unfortunately did so on YouTube, where the video stood as proof.

A jury thus found that Leslie's promise of a reward for the return of his lost laptop and external hard drive was valid, meaning that he had to pay Armin Augstein a cool $1 million. Leslie was cool with that, sort of, as he announced on (again) YouTube on Friday.

It all began back in 2010, when Leslie's laptop and an external hard drive were stolen from a black Mercedes in Cologne, Germany. Taking to YouTube, he offered $1 million for the safe return of his electronics.

Armin Augstein, who owns an auto-repair shop, found them in a park as he was walking his dog. Possibly Leslie did not think that Augstein knew of the reward. Pssst, Ryan: it's YouTube.

Reconsidering, Leslie wanted to back out of the reward. Augstein took him to court. Augstein won, as was reported at the end of last week.

Leslie tried to imply that Augstein might have had something to do with the initial theft, but there was a problem with this. There was no evidence for the accusation.

During the case, Leslie said that the reward depended on his being able to retrieve several unreleased songs from the hard drive. While he said he was unable to do so, New York federal judge Howard Baer ruled that Leslie and his team handled the drive negligently when it was returned, and that the jury should assume the data was on the drive it was returned.

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In addition, Leslie tried to argue that the use of YouTube as a medium for offering the reward did not constitute a valid contract. Baer rejected that argument as well, saying:
Leslie also relies on the fact that the offer was conveyed over YouTube (a website where many advertisements and promotional videos are shared, along with any number of other types of video) to undermine the legitimacy of the offer. I do not find this reasoning persuasive. The forum for conveying the offer is not determinative, but rather, the question is whether a reasonable person would have understood that Leslie made an offer of a reward.

I conclude that they would.
At a concert on Friday (video embedded), Leslie explained that his original offer was a reward of $20,000, but that when the electronics weren't initially returned he upped the offer by $980,000.

He also mentioned the fact that he couldn't access the hard drive, and that he wasn't the cheapskate that people said he was, as he couldn't get the music back (a few of his fans said "f* them," meaning the jury, in the video).

Leslie hasn't learned anything from the trial, though. He added:
And despite what the jury said, that $1 million reward is still out there for anyone who can return my compositions to me.
Nothing like repeating your mistakes.

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