Reader: With Art, the Buyer Can Take It or Leave It...Not Steal It

Tesla's version of the farting unicorn.
Tesla's version of the farting unicorn.
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Elon Musk is easily distracted. He's had problems with production of the new Tesla model, and complained in May that reporters were asking "boring" questions. In June, after Evergreen artist Tom Edwards told Westword that Musk had lifted the image of a farting unicorn he'd created back in 2010 — which graced one of Musk's "favorite mugs," as the billionaire tweeted in February 2017, shortly before the unicorn popped up on Tesla's sketch pad — Musk got into a Twitter war with Edwards's musician daughter over her father's work. But Musk soon moved on — and that exchange disappeared — when Musk decided to create a submarine to rescue the Thai boys, a rescue that was somehow managed without him.

Sine then, lawyers for Musk and Edwards have been talking about a possible settlement over the image use, but there's no deal yet.

Readers have plenty of opinions, though. Says Mark:

That sub was the dorkiest thing that ever happened in the history of rescues. Good thing the Thai Navy Seals manned up to the task. From what I read about the caves, that dorky sub would not of made it and would of got stuck in the narrow corridors that only divers could navigate. Elon is a nerd with that heavy-metal car stunt and then a stupid rescue sub that was too big for the caves. Then after reading this article, why would anyone think Electricity is Magic? It's a scientific process found in batteries and power plants around the world. There are no farting unicorns that produce electricity. ...

Sometimes artists have bigger egos that demand more money than what the art is actually worth. For said farting unicorn I would think this level of skill and ability would be worth at most $100. We aren't looking at the Mona Lisa here. Let's not lower expectations for art because of one ignorant person trying to cash in their ego.

What does a frame of South Park cost these days?

Responds Jennifer: 

 The buyer doesn’t get to choose the “fair price.” The artist does. The buyer can take it or leave it and not steal it. 

Counters Steve:

 All I know is that paying for that farting unicorn mug is ill-advised 'cause that looks like that is free if ya stop by any second-grade art class. Maybe people will pay for art if it doesn't seem like a poo-pants kid half- assed his way to a C minus.

Adds Scott: 

Guy who got famous because of Tesla/Elon Musk trying to sue over an image that isn't his because he's suddenly seeing $$$. Tesla should just change the picture and move on.

Ronnie replies: 

Read up on copyright law, dumbsh!t.

For starters, you can read this piece by longtime Denver artist Lauri Lynnxe Murphy, which makes the case for why artists should be paid:

Reader: With Art, the Buyer Can Take It or Leave It...Not Steal It
Tom Edwards

"Why Pay Artists? Hey, Would You Do Your Job for Free?"

After Westword published its first farting unicorn piece on June 26, the story was picked up around the world (often without attribution to the original source, ironically). Musk's lawyers finally called Edwards's attorney early this month, and the two sides started talking. “Last week we gave them a reasonable offer,” Edwards told us on July 9. “They didn’t go for that, and so now they’re looking at a different way to establish the value of my artwork.”

Edwards has been both lauded and criticized for his fight for compensation from the electric-car CEO. For every person who says he deserves to be paid for his art, another berates him for trying to make a buck off of a billionaire over a farting unicorn. But Edwards shrugs off the social-media blowback.

“Some tech geeks have said it’s just a dumb cartoon,” he notes. “Well, how would the tech geek feel if that was his source code that got stolen?”

What do you think of Elon Musk's actions? The farting unicorn art? Post a comment or share your thoughts in an email to editorial@westword.com.

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