Back in February of 2017, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted this since deleted photo of a mug featuring an illustration of a unicorn farting out fuel for electric cars…
Tom Edwards was the artist who created both the illustration and the mug.
In 2010, Edwards began selling a coffee mug from his pottery business, Wallyware, that pictured a unicorn farting into the engine of a car with the message:
“Electric cars are good for the environment because electricity comes from magic.”
Apparently, Musk’s tweet led to a boost in his mug sales around the world.
But then, a month later, Musk tweeted out this photo that looks like Edwards’ illustration.
Only it wasn’t exactly the illustration on the mug.
The picture was one based on Edwards’ image that was created on Tesla’s new ‘sketch pad’ feature which had just been launched in their cars…
So the image served as an advertisement for a new Tesla product feature.
The artist, Tom Edwards, was prepared to let this imitation go as just the sincerest form of flattery.
That is until he found out that the image was being used on Christmas cards that Tesla was selling as well as in their cars as an icon.
Edwards told The Guardian…
“It’s part of their branding now.”
“I love the fact that it’s in the cars, but I just want them to do the right thing and pay me adequately for it.”
“Elon Musk can be a hero for standing up for artists’ rights.”
Because Musk had previously tweeted an image of Edwards’ work in which he acknowledged the artist, Edward’s lawyers believe this is an open and shut copyright violation case.
Edwards told The Denver Post:
“You can’t just steal someone’s art, tweet about it and then say ‘We’re even ’cause I sold some of your work for you’.”
Edwards’ daughter entered the fray on Twitter…
— Lisa Prank (@lisaprank) June 26, 2018
Her tweet received this since deleted questionable response from Elon Musk’s official Twitter account…
To which Edwards’ daughter responded…
It’s a direct copy of his work. And every element that goes into building the Tesla financially benefits you.
— Lisa Prank (@lisaprank) June 27, 2018
Which was met with this since deleted snark from Musk’s Twitter account…
People immediately came to the artist’s defense, including a few famous names…
whoa not cool @elonmusk
— CHASTITY BELT (@CHAST1TYBELT) June 27, 2018
Elon! Be the hero! Not the villain! Send him a car! Farting unicorns are genius. Equal to your cars. This is a fair deal. Make it happen! x
— V a n e s s a C a r l t o n (@VanessaCarlton) June 28, 2018
Oh I see, the old “exposure” argument *facepalm*
— Lesley Carhart (@hacks4pancakes) June 28, 2018
The spinoff you never knew you wanted. pic.twitter.com/NaE0n0c6C2
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) June 27, 2018
ROYALTIES are the sincerest form of flattery.
— shortypants (@surfglare) June 27, 2018
People who are deriding the quality of the work in Musk’s defence — If its such a shitty picture why did he use it? This situation is such an embodiment of Musk’s privilege and narcissism and it’s so gross.
— Megan (@JigglyFloof) June 28, 2018
the 1% will always take advantage of artists and claim exposure is somehow worth more than compensating them for their work. Hell, a guy who painted a mural @ Facebook got stock options. also, i loved adult teen
— mork mork mork mork (@SnokeAlarm) June 28, 2018
I can only assume that was after he tried to ridicule the artist, suggested exposure was plenty of payment, was consequently called on the bullshit by half the internet and then deleted his tweet. Not exactly heroic.
— Him over there (@jhndmrsmn) June 28, 2018
As an artist I am sick and tired if the notion that we should be flattered when our work is stolen.
— Cindy Bendel (@BendelCindy) June 28, 2018
Someone even asked Musk to consider how his mother, famed model Maye Haldeman Musk, would feel if it were her likeness used without permission or compensation.
I love ya Elon sincerely, AND here's a test: Ask your beautiful Mom (earns income off her image…) what she thinks; Would she expect to be paid & without asking? Tarnishing respectful image so damaging but easy fix if not too late. Legal clearance messed up. Fix it & move on✨
— Barbara C. Benedict (@BarbaraBenedict) June 28, 2018
Although some asked why the artist wouldn’t just welcome the free exposure.
People were happy to explain uncredited exposure of original artwork does not help an artist.
I think most people would happily pay Tesla to get their art displayed. The artist benefits a lot from the display.
— Bo Hu (@bohu651) June 27, 2018
Not when it is distributed without the artist's name being credited.
— Nixie (@1Nixie) June 28, 2018
— Tanya Chris (@tanyachrs) June 28, 2018
Edward’s daughter shared on Thursday, the day after her exchange with Musk’s account, that she had been blocked by Musk on Twitter.
“Elon Musk blocked you” pic.twitter.com/nTqFXRzGPo
— Lisa Prank (@lisaprank) June 28, 2018
Regardless of how this case eventually plays out, please remember: exposure does not pay the rent.