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Farting Unicorn Sparks Legal Battle Between Local Artist And Elon Musk

DENVER (CBS4) — A Colorado potter is in an argument with Elon Musk over a farting unicorn.

Yes, you read that right. It's a battle first reported by Westword.

Tom Edwards makes unique and playful pottery from his home studio in Evergreen. One of his creations takes a mythical aim at electric cars, and it's turned him into an internet sensation.

Mug with Tom Edwards' art in dispute. (SOURCE: CBS Denver)
Mug with Tom Edwards' art in dispute. (SOURCE: CBS Denver)

"This is a design I've been doing since 2010," Edwards said.

With a laugh, Edwards explained to CBS4's Kelly Werthmann what's on the colorful mug featuring a gassy unicorn.

"Okay, this is a natural bodily function. The unicorn is farting into this container and then it's going through a cord and powering the electric car," he said smiling. "It says, 'Electric cars are good for the environment because electricity comes from magic.'"

The whimsical creation caught the eye of Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur behind Tesla Motors. He took to Twitter about the tooter last February.

"He said it was quite possibly his favorite mug ever," Edwards said.

Edwards told CBS4 he was initially happy about the billionaire's tweet – it gave him a small boost in sales.

"I sold about 50 mugs from that tweet," he said. "It seemed like the perfect person to promote my design. I was really happy that he did that."

But a couple months later, Edwards got wind Tesla was using a copy of his bottom-blasting unicorn to promote the cars' new operating system.

"[Elon Musk] tweeted again, only this time it was a copy of my artwork," Edwards explained.

It was a tweet about the launch of a sketchpad program, Edwards added, and the unicorn drawing was used to feature what users can do with it.

"So all last year people were sending me pictures like, 'Hey, I was in the Tesla showroom and I saw your artwork,'" Edwards said.

Edwards didn't go after the company then because he said a friend advised him that even though it was copyright infringement, it is "pretty hard to go after a company like that."

"The straw that broke the camel's back was at Christmas [Tesla] sent out a Christmas greeting and it had my artwork on it," Edwards said.

That's when Edwards hired a lawyer to reach out to Tesla for compensation.

"I made it my New Year's resolution to do something about this," he said.

About a month ago, Edwards said his attorney sent the company a letter hoping to start a conversation. With no response weeks later, Edwards' daughter let it rip on Twitter.

"She said, 'Hey, how come you're not compensating my dad?" Edwards said of the tweet.

Before deleting his blows back at Robin Edwards – who is a musician and goes by her stage name Lisa Prank on Twitter – Elon Musk called Tom Edwards 'kinda lame' if he chose to sue for money. The billionaire also claimed he's who made the unicorn mugs popular, giving Edwards free promotion, but would stop using the artwork if that's what Edwards wanted.

"That's not the point," Edwards said. "The point is they've already used it and that's how copyright works. It's not like you can use a Bruce Springsteen song for your commercial and say, 'Oh, we'll just stop running that commercial on TV.' No, you already used it. Artists need to protect their work."

Edwards isn't sure yet how much his lawyer will seek for compensation. He just wants to defend his hand-crafted creations.

"I think the only real solution is if Tesla Motors negotiates with us and gives us compensation for that artwork," he said. "It's really hard to establish the value of that now they've gotten a year or so worth of use out of it. And actually, I'd like him to keep using it. I think that would be great. It's not like I want to take it away, I just think they need to do the right thing."\

— Kelly Werthmann

H/T to Carole McKinley at Westword

Kelly Werthmann joined the CBS4 team as the morning reporter in 2012. After serving as weekend morning anchor, Kelly is now Covering Colorado First for CBS4 News at 10. Connect with Kelly on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @KellyCBS4.

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