Elon Musk in copyright challenge over a farting unicorn

Artist Tom Edwards created a whimsical image of a colourful unicorn powering a car with its own version of natural gas. (Screenshot/Twitter)

Artist Tom Edwards created a whimsical image of a colourful unicorn powering a car with its own version of natural gas. (Screenshot/Twitter)

It all started with a unicorn seemingly enjoying a bout of flatulence, which led to techpreneur Elon Musk being involved in a copyright law dispute with artist Tom Edwards.

Edwards created a whimsical image of a colourful unicorn powering a car with its own version of natural gas. The caption read “Electric cars are good for the environment because electricity comes from magic.”

This image appeared on a mug and Musk commented in a tweet “maybe my favourite mug ever.” According to Edwards, this tweet had a positive effect, boosting sales of his mug.

Soon, however, the relationship between Musk and Edwards hit the skids following the former’s unauthorised use of the same image on March 30 2018.
It was used as a test picture on Tesla’s new “sketch pad” feature.  Edwards alleges the drawing was being used as an icon for the “sketch pad” and in Christmas cards sent by Musk.

Edwards subsequently hired a lawyer, planning to sue Musk on the basis of using the image without Edwards’s permission or reference. The lawyer asked for a negotiation between the two parties but a Twitter war interrupted the discussions. 

Edwards’ daughter started the war over the copyright infringement with accusations that the image was a “a direct copy” of her father’s art and stated that the art financially benefited Tesla.

Musk claims that the image was chosen “as a joke” by his software team but Edwards’ daughter continued to demand monetary compensation.

According to Musk, because Tesla did not benefit financially from using the picture, he did not see any logic in paying Edwards.

After a digital war of words, a new picture was chosen to demonstrate the “sketch pad” feature and Musk responded to the outcry by saying that the popularity of the image actually helped Edwards rather than harmed as it “increased his (Edwards’s) mug sales.”

​Julian Yeates

​Julian Yeates

Julian Yeates is currently visiting at the Mail & Guardian from Rhodes University. She is chasing her dream of becoming a journalist by dabbling in all forms of media including radio and writing. Through exploring, imagining and creating, Julian is finding herself and her passion.  Read more from ​Julian Yeates

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