It all started when Elon Musk posted the picture of a mug, apparently made by the potter, Tom Edwards, with a farting unicorn and the inscription "Electric cars are good for the environment because electricity comes from magic" on the back of the mug – at that time the artist was delighted to learn that Musk loved his work.
Rainbows, unicorns and electric cars pic.twitter.com/oGHkVUmpdi— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) 4 февраля 2017 г.
But back then Musk couldn’t have imagined that a couple of months later he would find himself in a fiery exchange of barbs on social media after tweeting a picture of Tesla’s new sketchpad, featuring the very fairy creature.
The accusations came to light after Edwards’ daughter took to Twitter to claim that Musk had used her father’s design to promote his product without the artist’s knowledge.
Musk replied to her directly, having tagged the person who drew the illustration for Tesla's pad, Nik Jovanovic, and who has the unicorn sketch as his profile picture and header image on Twitter.
I think Nik @jovanik21 did an illustration with Tesla sketch pad Easter egg similar to mug pic that I posted. Was chosen randomly by software team as a joke (they didn’t tell me in advance) as an example of the hidden feature. We can change it to something else if your Dad wants.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) 27 июня 2018 г.
The two started exchanging messages publicly, with the daughter accusing the multi-CEO of using her father’s “creative property for over a year without credit or compensation.”
Your company has been using his creative property for a year without credit or compensation—don’t you think artists deserve to be paid for their work? Maybe you can respond to the letter his lawyer sent you & you guys can work something out— Lisa Prank (@lisaprank) 27 июня 2018 г.
It didn’t take Musk long to strike back, as he suggested that her dad sue him if he wanted to, “but that’s kinda lame,” and went on to claim that this entire situation would boost his mug's sales.
Was actually someone else’s drawing of a unicorn on hidden Tesla sketch pad app & we gained no financial benefit. Have asked my team to use a diff example going forward. He can sue for money if he wants, but that’s kinda lame. If anything, this attention increased his mug sales.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) 27 июня 2018 г.
Lisa, I popularized your Dad’s mug for free, he made thousands of dollars as a result & now he wants more money because someone else’s drawing of that mug was used as a sketch pad example in a *hidden* feature. How much money does your Dad want for this terrible transgression?— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) 27 июня 2018 г.
The two went back-and-forth, with her once again specifying that it was a “copyright issue of stolen intellectual property.”
it’s a copyright issue of stolen intellectual property—I’m not sure exactly what he wants! Maybe whatever wage you normally pay graphic designers to come up with content for you? The person to discuss this with is his lawyer, who sent you a letter you didn’t respond to— Lisa Prank (@lisaprank) 27 июня 2018 г.
And if you’ve been wondering where this farting unicorn came from in the first place, Westword publisher reported that it was Edwards who came up with the image in 2010 and used it on his ceramic mugs, sold for $28 each.
When the illustration was on numerous occasions used by Tesla, Edwards consulted with several lawyers, who told him it was a clear case of a copyright violation.
And last month his lawyer, Tim Atkinson, sent a letter to Tesla as an “invitation for all parties to continue to benefit from the whimsical, and amazingly spot on piece of imagery my client created in 2010, which now appropriately finds a home in the operating system of the magical vehicles your company produces.” The letter, however, found no response.
Once the story came out, it was picked up by a number of media outlets, including The Guardian – which particularly drew Musk’s attention as he claimed that he offered to “pay the guy who drew it [sketch] twice”:
The Guardian article is bs in every possible way & I offered to pay the guy who drew it twice already for something I don’t even want. This isn’t part of “Tesla branding”. Brand, ugh. I hate very word.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) 28 июня 2018 г.
Nothing is more absurd than reality! This silly 🦄💨☕️ drawing that was just added as a silly example for our sketchpad Easter egg has bothered me more than anything today. I definitely care about artists getting compensated. It would be unfair not to do so.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) 28 июня 2018 г.
Even though the situation has been highly scandalized, Musk remained loyal to himself and in his most recent tweet he trolled the headlines media outlets pick for their articles:
Have to say that seeing major news outlets run headlines with the words “Unicorn Farts” pretty damn funny. A gravitas is a terrible thing to waste.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) 28 июня 2018 г.
Even J.K. Rowling, the author who introduced the wizard boy, Harry Potter, to the world, also mocked one of the headlines in a tweet:
The spinoff you never knew you wanted. pic.twitter.com/NaE0n0c6C2— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) 27 июня 2018 г.
But other Twitter users, who felt sympathy for the potter, couldn’t remain on the sidelines as the incident was put in the spotlight. Some called on Musk to pay compensation for what he's allegedly stolen…
I have to say Elon, just reading the tweets, on the face of it, it looks like you have stolen some chap's work, and now you've been found out & don't want to pay up. I'm a big fan "Brand Elon", @Telsa, @SpaceX, etc. Do the right thing. Pay up.— Lee Walton (@_LeeWalton_) 28 июня 2018 г.
…including American singer Vanessa Carlton:
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) 28 июня 2018 г.
Many, however, defended Musk and wondering since when a farting unicorn had become "intellectual property”:
It seems like Elon is saying that a Tesla customer submitted the image and that nobody even knew it had a copyright claim. Tesla was not charging money for the image so they were not a competing business. It does appear to be a preschool child's random drawing after all.— Marc Clint Dion (@MarcClintDion) 27 июня 2018 г.
The farting unicorn becomes intellectual property? Find some other way to make money instead of extorting public figures.— jack ma (@Elons_Apostle) 28 июня 2018 г.
Lisa why are you making such a big issue when it was someone else who drew it as a copy of the original, @elonmusk didn't use the original so really it's not a copyright infringement.— dylan godfrey (@dylangodfrey325) 28 июня 2018 г.
Copyright is a joke. Your dad can't copyright farting unicorns and that is not intellectual property. Those laws allow for more abuse than they do protection. Getting paid should be contingent upon executing on a product not who came up with it first.— Biggity Blake (@bharriest) 27 июня 2018 г.
If you paid any attention the thread, before and after this, you would see that— incognitoMode (@intmainvoid314) 28 июня 2018 г.
1. He will take it down.
2. He has offered twice to compensate the man.
3. The man has personally shared his gratitude, his daughter just wants her five minutes of fame.