Elon Musk, a Colorado potter, and a farting unicorn walk into a bar, followed by a punchline about copyright infringement.

The Tesla chief executive has been accused of using an image of a farting unicorn for commercial purposes without permission or compensation. The original image was first tweeted by Musk last year and had previously been featured on a mug made by 61-year-old Colorado potter Tom Edwards, who has been making unicorn-themed ceramics since 2010.

Similar images of farting unicorns have been used for Tesla's in-vehicle interfaces and promotional material, although Edwards was only alerted to the potential infringement after his friend purchased a Tesla car and found a similar farting unicorn in use.

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Following this discovery, Edwards' daughter, Lisa Prank, tweeted directly at Musk: "Grimes' boyfriend ripped off my dad's art!"

hey yall Grimes boyfriend ripped off my dads art! this is a true story! what do you have to say for yourself @elonmusk ??

— Lisa Prank (@lisaprank) June 26, 2018

Musk sent a direct response back which has since disappeared from his timeline, crediting Nik Jovanovic as the mind behind the farting unicorn and offering to "change it to something else if your Dad wants."

The row continued with Prank stating that her father's "creative property [was being used] for a year without credit or compensation," before asking Musk if he thought "artists deserve to be paid for their work?" and directing him to a letter from the family's lawyer.

This letter was sent on 23 May by Tim Atkinson, and, as reported in the Guardian, was framed as "an invitation for all parties to continue to benefit from the whimsical, and amazingly spot on piece of imagery my client created in 2010, which now appropriately finds a home in the operating system of the magical vehicles your company produces."

In his final tweet on the matter, Musk reiterated that it "Was actually someone else's drawing of a unicorn" and that "we gained no financial benefit."

Musk ended the tweet by saying, "He can sue for money if he wants, but that's kinda lame. If anything, this attention increased his mug sales."

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