Online only

Potter's unicorn jinxes magnate

FANS OF copyright law have a new case to add to the already-long list of bizarre cases. Tom Edwards,a potter who trades from the US state of Colorado as Wallyware, offers a mug bearing the slogan "Electric cars are good for the environment because electricity comes from magic!". On the front is a fetching drawing of a farting unicorn. That would be the magic.

Billionaire Elon Musk of Tesla-car-in-space fame liked it. Tom was pleased. Then it turned out that an update for the Tesla's software includes an "Easter egg" - a hidden feature. Tap a "T" on the car's screent hree times and you get a sketchpad. And on the sketchpad you see a farting unicorn.

Tom was not pleased. It appears that the Tesla unicorn is a re-drawing of Tom's. Some said Musk himself had drawn it, which seems not quite right.

But it being a re-drawing does not make it any less a violation of his copyright in the image. Consider another of our favourite weird cases. The Natural History Museum in London presented life-size installation of a car crushed by a building in the 1995 Kobe earthquake in Japan. Photographer (and London Freelance Branch member )Dario Mitidier visited the exhibition - and concluded that what the NHM had done was to copy his photograph in steel and plywood. He eventually won over £5000 in damages.

The Freelance contacted Tom Edwards expressing support in his pursuit of Musk and Tesla - and hoping he hadn't sold too many of the mugs. It could possible strengthen his case by allowing him to claim not only for direct fiancial compensation but also for breach of his moral rights, in failing to identify him if not for detriment to his honour or reputation. In the US these moral rights exist only in respect of works of visual art produced in editions of 250 or fewer (though there may be other hurdles). He thanked us and believes his lawyer's on it.

We can only hope that fans of corporate liability law do not get their own weird case. Who would be responsible for an accident caused by someone not paying attention because they were re-drawing a farting unicorn on the sketch-pad while their Tesla car was in autopilor mode?