Yesterday afternoon, popular gadget reviewer Marques Brownlee tweeted out a link to an article on a Tesla fan site of new leaked photos of the upcoming, hotly anticipated Model 3 electric car. “Yo Tesla Model 3 looks better and better in every leaked photo,” Brownlee tweeted. “Gotta love the incremental updates.”
But the next day, Brownlee woke up to find that his tweet had been removed and replaced with this message: “This tweet from @MKBHD has been withheld in response to a report from the copyright holder.”
In an email to The Verge, Brownlee said that the photographer, You You Xue, requested the removal of Brownlee’s tweet on the grounds of copyright infringement. Brownlee followed up with a tweet wondering if the request was an attempt by Xue to promote his photography on Flickr.
On Reddit yesterday, Xue claims to have randomly spotted the Model 3 in San Matteo, California: “jumped straight out of the car and started snapping photos!” But since capturing the detailed shots, Xue has been highly protective of his images, even getting posts on Facebook removed as well.
Ever since it was first announced last year, the Tesla Model 3 has been the subject of intense speculation and curiosity among the electric carmaker’s growing online fan base. Tesla has taken pains to camouflage the car when taking it out in the public, even going so far as to cover it completely when charging it and hiding its steering wheel and screen.
Tesla’s secrecy around the vehicle’s rollout — the company is eschewing an official launch, opting instead for a more subdued delivery to the first customers — has created a black market for these types of spy shots, and made the internet go a little crazy in the process.
On Twitter, and in most of his public comments to date, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been cagey about the Model 3, the car that’s supposed to bring Tesla’s vision of emission-free driving to the masses. He has said repeatedly that the Model 3 is not intended to be the third version of Tesla’s electric cars, but rather a paired-down version of the Model S.
Indeed, interior shots of the Model 3 show a simplistic-bordering-on-spartan dashboard, with a 17-inch touchscreen and not much else. Musk has said he intends to keep driving a Model X, even after the Model 3’s release.
As for the power struggle over leaked images of the Model 3, we’ve reached out to Tesla and You You Xue, and will update this post if we hear back. For his part, Brownlee said it “seems pretty lame that someone would go around copyright striking tweets (others besides me were taken down as well) over a Flickr album that’s been uploaded everywhere already anyway.”
He added, “Model 3 hype does have some people getting a little skittish though.”