- Elon Musk has frequently stolen memes, The New York Times reported.
- When reached by The Times for comment, Musk responded with more uncredited memes.
- Reposting memes without credit can have negative ramifications for original creators.
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Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and Space X who has over 53 million Twitter followers, is a known lover of memes. But he’s frequently been accused of stealing them from other creators online, as reported on Friday by The New York Times’ Taylor Lorenz.
And when reached for comment by The Times, Musk, who is slated to host “Saturday Night Live” on Saturday, responded with two uncredited memes… about stealing memes.
The first contained two panels: one with the caption “stealing someone else’s meme” and an image of a character pushing a cart and remarking on a great find. The second panel had the caption, “someone stealing your meme,” and an image of the same character in a tizzy. A reverse image search revealed that the meme had been posted on r/Animemes, an anime memes-focused subreddit, in 2020, although it’s unclear if that was its first iteration.
Musk’s next meme featured a cat with a superimposed, slightly transparent Soviet Union flag and the caption, “I don’t steal your memes… I share OUR memes.” From a reverse image search, it appears to have spread widely online with reposts on Reddit, iFunny, Facebook, Twitter, and other websites in 2020.
Writer Miles Klee wrote in an April SF Gate article about the experience of Musk stealing one of his memes. Klee said it was unnerving to know that one of the world’s richest people came across his social-media post in the first place, and reflected on the eeriness of that image being repurposed without his involvement. Other creators have also criticized Musk for reposting their memes without credit.
Memes are difficult to credit in the first place – they spread rapidly online and splinter into different iterations of a similar format, typically without watermarks or other indicators of credit for their original creators, as Lorenz reported for The Times. It’s simple to see a reaction image or other meme on Twitter, save it to your phone, and toss it out later in an entirely different context.
But creators told The Times that meme-stealing had negative ramifications, including the fact that their work was taken without driving followers to their accounts. Some of the creators that Musk had reposted memes from reportedly asked him for financial compensation, The Times reported.