Infowars will pay Pepe the Frog’s creator $15,000 to settle a copyright lawsuit.
An image made by Alex Pardee to support the #SavePepe campaign. Courtesy of #SavePepe.
A dispute between artist Matt Furie, the creator of Pepe the Frog, and the far-right conspiracy website Infowars was settled this week after it appeared to be destined for a trial. The suit was filed last year over a poster Infowars sold in 2017 and 2018, featuring an image of Pepe the Frog alongside U.S. President Donald Trump, Infowars founder Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos, and other right-wing figures. Infowars is paying Furie $15,000 and has agreed to destroy all remaining copies of the poster, which it ceased selling when the suit began.
Pepe the Frog, originally a lovable stoner frog Furie created in 2005 and later used as a character in his Boy’s Club comic, eventually became an internet sensation before being co-opted by the self-proclaimed alt-right during the 2016 presidential campaign, transforming the image into a symbol associated with the Trump campaign, and one used in overtly racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-Muslim memes.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr. were both criticized for sharing Pepe the Frog memes from their personal social media accounts. That same year, the Anti-Defamation League formally classified Pepe as a hate symbol, and in 2017 Furie began fighting back against the co-opting of his creation by killing off the character in a cartoon and taking his first successful legal action against an appropriator—a children’s book his lawyers said, “espoused racist, Islamophobic and hate-filled themes, [and] included allusions to the alt-right movement.” In 2018, Furie also successfully had the image removed from a far-right white-supremecist website.
Infowars published a press release on Monday claiming they were paying only a “licensing fee” and that “the corporate press will undoubtedly frame this as a victory for Furie. It wasn’t. The result clearly represents a strategic victory for Alex Jones.” Meanwhile a lawyer for Furie, Louis Tompros, told the New York Times this view was “just incorrect,” adding:
They can characterize it however they want to characterize it, but it is very clear that they are not allowed to sell anything with Pepe on it unless they have a license [. . .] And they have no license. [. . .] The point of this case against Alex Jones and the point of all of Mr. Furie’s enforcement regarding Pepe the Frog is no one should think they are going to make money based on hateful Pepe merchandise.
Furie intends to donate $1,000 of the settlement money to the amphibian conservation charity Save the Frogs.