Elon Musk became embroiled in another Twitter spat last week, this time in a copyright dispute over an image of a unicorn’s farts powering an electric car.
Back in February last year, the entrepreneur shared an image of his “favourite mug ever”, which was created by Colorado artist and potter Tom Edwards.
The mug shows an image of a unicorn farting into a bucket and powering an electric car, with accompanying text that says: “Electric cars are good for the environment because electricity comes from magic”.
A month later, Musk shared an image he said was drawn on the Tesla sketch pad function, showing a recreation of the image on the mug. The image was also reportedly used to promote the hidden feature in Tesla cars, and in a Christmas message to Tesla owners.
Get daily business news.
The latest stories, funding information, and expert advice. Free to sign up.
Last week, Edwards’s daughter Lisa Prank brought the issue to a head on Twitter, calling out Musk as she shared an article from Denver news website Westword, detailing the copyright battle between the two.
According to the the article, Edwards’s attorney wrote to Musk’s lawyer looking for a ‘discussion’ about the way in which the image was being used.
When Prank shared the article, she was rather more frank, saying: “hey y’all Grimes’ boyfriend ripped off my dad’s art! this is a true story! what do you have to say for yourself @elonmusk ??”
— Lisa Prank (@lisaprank) June 26, 2018
Musk responded with an increasingly-irritable string of now-deleted messages to Prank, first saying the image was “similar to the mug pic”, and selected at random “as an example of the hidden feature”.
Prank responded with claims that Tesla has been “using [Edwards’s] creative property for a year without credit or compensation”, and advised Musk to respond to the lawyer’s letter.
Musk responded: “He can sue for money if he wants, but that’s kinda lame. If anything, this attention increased his mug sales”.
He went on to tell Prank: “I popularised your dad’s mug for free”.
Musk also claimed he offered to pay the artist for his work, something Prank denied. “Just asked my dad and he said this isn’t true,” she said.
Eventually, Musk blocked Prank, sticking his head in the virtual sand, to more derision from Twitter users. The original image Musk posted, of the mug itself, has also been deleted.
Harry Potter author J.K Rowling even got in on the action, calling Musk’s farting unicorn dispute with Prank “the spinoff you never knew you wanted”.
While the Twitter storm appears to have burnt itself out, and Musk has remained quiet on the topic, Edwards has since released a new pottery design, featuring the famous unicorn in question and the words: “Don’t be a fart. Don’t steal art.”