PEPE THE FROG CREATOR AND INFOWARS REACH SETTLEMENT
Steven T. Lowe
Following up on our March 15, 2018 article entitled “Pepe The Frog Creator Fires Back”: On June 10, 2019, the creator of Pepe the Frog, Matt Furie (“Furie”), reached a settlement to end a copyright lawsuit he filed against the far-right website, “Infowars.”
A month after U.S. District Court Judge, Michael Fitzgerald, of the Central District of California refused to rule that Infowars was protected by copyright’s fair use doctrine when it used the Pepe the Frog character on posters, Furie announced that Infowars has agreed to pay $15,000 and has agreed to never use the Pepe the Frog character again.
The case was one of several Furie has filed over the past two years as part of a public campaign to reclaim what he has called his “peaceful frog-dude” from its current status as a internet symbol of white nationalists and other far-right groups.
Counsel for Furie exclaimed, “If anyone thinks they can make money selling unauthorized Pepe merchandise, they’re wrong…Mr. Furie will continue to enforce his copyrights, particularly against anyone trying to profit by associating Pepe with hateful images or ideas.”
Infowars were also quite content with the settlement: “They [Furie] wanted $1.2 million…After over a year of litigation, and probably $1 million in attorneys’ fees, they got a measly $15,000. If they can run a law firm at that rate of return, I would like to hire their accountant.”
Furie sued Infowars in March 2018 for selling a poster featuring Pepe alongside Jones, President Donald Trump and other right-wing figures. The site defended itself by arguing that the poster constituted fair use, claiming the widespread “meme-ification” of the character meant it should be accorded less robust copyright protection. However, Judge Fitzgerald held last month that “Defendants have not pointed to any authority for the proposition that ‘meme-ification’ of an image or character destroys or diminishes the original author’s copyright interest.” That ruling left the issue of fair use unresolved, meaning it would have to be decided by a jury. A trial had been scheduled for July 16, 2019.
Furie is represented by Louis Tompros and Stephanie Lin of WilmerHale.
InfoWars is represented by Marc J. Randazza and Alex J. Shepard of Randazza Legal Group.
The case is Furie v. Infowars LLC et al., case number 2:18-cv-01830, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
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