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Artist sculpting a copyright infringement claim against Tesla

The chief executive of Tesla has been accused of using an artist’s copyrighted image without permission. Elon Musk has been criticised on Twitter for appropriating Tom Edward’s image of a unicorn passing wind to power an electric car. Musk used the image to promote Tesla’s new sketch pad, but failed to seek or be granted the artist’s permission.

Edwards runs a pottery business called Wallyware where he sells ceramic items featuring his designs and artwork. The image of the flatulent unicorn was created in 2010 and was featured on mugs sold by the business.

In February 2017, Musk took to Twitter and announced that the unicorn mug may be his “favourite mug ever”. Two months later, in a promotional campaign for the new sketch pads, he tweeted a substantially similar image, which was not credited.

Lisa Prank, Edwards’s daughter, has recently taken to Twitter drawing attention to the copyright dispute of the unicorn image. In his reply to her allegations, Musk admitted that the images were similar and offered to use a different design. However, Prank gave a more abrupt response. She responded to Musk suggesting they have taken legal action: she replied, “maybe you can respond to the letter his lawyer sent you”.

It has been reported that Edwards wanted a positive resolution, but after hearing other artists not being credited for their work, he went to seek legal advice. Lawyers have advised him that this is a clear case of copyright infringement. However, Edwards has said he is not seeking significant sums of money, but wants to be paid appropriately for the use of the design as he enjoyed the design being used in the promotion of Tesla.

It has been known for alleged infringers to argue differences between designs and hence argue no copying has occurred. It will be interesting to see whether Tesla attempt to argue this point, especially in light of Musk’s admission on twitter that the images were substantially similar.

If you have any questions on the above, please do not hesitate to contact the team at McDaniel & Co. on 0191 281 4000 or legal@mcdanielslaw.com.