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$15,000 for Pepe the Frog Copyright Infringement

Alex Jones and Infowars have agreed to pay Pepe the Frog creator Matt Furie $15,000 to settle a lawsuit concerning misuse of the cartoon character.

Infowars included Pepe the Frog in a poster by Jon Allen featuring right-wing public figures in a campaign to earn money for the conspiracy-theory website.

 

Both sides claimed victory in the struggle.

“What we asked for at the beginning of the case is for Infowars to stop selling the poster and to turn over all of their profits,” Louis Tompros, a lawyer for Furie, said on Monday (10 June). “Anyone who is going to make money using Pepe as an image of hate is not something Mr Furie has ever authorised and is not something he is going to tolerate.”

The Silicon Republic report continues:

Pepe became a sort of far-right mascot during the 2016 US presidential campaign. Since then, the frog has become synonymous with the alt-right, eventually being added to the Anti-Defamation League’s database of hate symbols…this has led to Furie’s name cropping up on the database too, “creating significant emotional and financial harm for the creator”.

“Having your creation appropriated without consent is never something an artist wants to suffer, but having it done in the service of such repellent hatred, and thereby dragging your name into the conversation as well, makes it considerably more troubling.”

 

Infowars sees it differently:

Although the media attempted to hype the case by accusing Alex Jones of contributing to the notion of the Pepe meme as a symbol of white supremacy, the cartoon frog was actually just a small part of the original poster, which featured numerous other iconic images linked to the 2016 Trump campaign.

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.

“Happy to announce the folks suing Infowars over Pepe the Frog have agreed to settle, and accept a licensing fee of $15,000. We were originally sued for millions. Some people thought we wouldn’t fight the case. We did. We would only pay an honest licensing fee, and nothing more.”

The Infowars “licensing fee” was “all of their profits” from the poster, plus $1,000.

It would seem to be cut and dried – Furie created the character and, therefore, instantly gained copyrights. However not long after the creation the character started appearing, in non-political roles, on the internet. At that time Furie did not attempt to assert his copyright, even encouraged others to feature the character and, in doing so, potentially giving up rights to the character. When the alt-right adopted the character Furie’s attitude changed.

Forbes listed some of the legalities the court faced:

The result of this lawsuit was highly anticipated with many copyright factors at play. Though extremely rare, Furie could have potentially abandoned the rights of his character by publicly stating that he was fine with Pepe taking on a life of his own through the memes. The issue of fair use was also brought up, as the jury was to decide whether or not the poster had an effect on the market and if the poster had created new purpose. Finally, a major factor in the decision was that the InfoWars poster was created before Furie’s copyright registration of Pepe in September 2017. This detail caused the judge to rule out any recovery of statutory damages and attorney fees. Therefore, Furie was only set to receive around $14,000 in profits if he won.

 

 

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