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Farting unicorns and fat rascals…

The copyright logo, a letter C in a circle on a blue background.

There are those who think that intellectual property ownership is a boring subject. Here at ERA, we couldn’t possibly comment (in the words of an iconic TV character). But from time to time, examples arise that demonstrate the lighter side of IP and one of those hit the headlines last week.

Elon Musk, the American business magnate and CEO of electric car manufacturer Tesla, tweeted an image in February 2017 of a ‘farting unicorn’ mug created by Colorado-based artist and potter Tom Edwards.  Tom’s cartoon unicorns farting electricity were first unveiled in a 2010 blogpost so they’d been around for a while. “Electric cars are good for the environment because electricity comes from magic,” he had blogged.

This inevitably created a surge in demand for the mug and interest in the ‘Wallyware’ range.  Tom was pleased to have a new fan, but less happy when his design started appearing on Tesla marketing items such as a Christmas card. The argument about copyright infringement continues, as reported in The Guardian.

Interestingly, Tom turns out to be a big fan of the first series of the BBC’s ‘Great Pottery Throwdown’ in 2015 and inspired to make a series of nesting bowls, which was the first challenge contestants faced. You can read his account here.

A disagreement from the past, but one that may well rise again as there’s dough involved (ouch!) is the argument over who has the right to sell a Fat Rascal. No, not an overweight ne’er-do-well, but a large scone or kind of rock cake which is a best-seller at the iconic Bettys Tearooms in Harrogate.

Bettys have trademarked the name of their own particular recipe, (along with variations) and protect its use. Only last year, a small cafe in Whitby was told to stop selling its own ‘rascals’ by lawyers acting for Bettys, and the offending buns were renamed as ‘Yorkshire Fatties’.  Disgruntled local bakers complain that the original name has been in use in the Whitby area since 1855 but currently (!) anyone using it may find they have bitten off more than they can chew…

Joking apart, these stories highlight an important issue, namely that artists and creators should be able to have control over their own works and subsequent exploitation. This is how all creators make a living and if their intellectual property is not safeguarded, creatives will be unable to survive financially.

ERA supports not only the creators of today but invests in the educational development  of the creators of tomorrow. Like other copyright organisations, we want creatives to be able to derive an income from their work. (If you are a visual artist and you are not aware of DACs you may wish to check out this link.)