Infowars must pay Pepe the Frog creator $15,000 in settlement

11 Jun 2019

Still from ‘InfoWars’ Alex Jones crashes social media hearing’. Image: Associated Press/YouTube

Pepe the Frog creator Matt Furie has settled with controversial media company Infowars over allegations of copyright infringement.

Infowars founder Alex Jones has agreed to pay Pepe the Frog creator Matt Furie $15,000 and to stop using his image.

Furie brought a lawsuit against Infowars that was expected to go to trial soon, for selling a poster included right-wing figures such as Donald Trump and Jones set alongside Pepe, Vice reported.

The settlement amount represents all profits from the sale of the poster – $14,000 – along with an additional $1,000 that the cartoonist said he will donate to an amphibian conservation charity, Save the Frogs.

“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.”

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. A statement released by Fantagraphics Books, an American publisher of alternative comics, claimed that this has led to Furie’s name cropping up on the database too, “creating significant emotional and financial harm for the creator”.

The statement says that Pepe is a “a peaceful cartoon amphibian who represents love, acceptance and fun, and getting stoned” and that the subsequent alt-right appropriation of the character marks a significant departure from the intended use. “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.”

Jones and his media company were banned from platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Apple, Spotify and YouTube last year following public opprobrium over his use of hate speech, his spurious claims that the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax, and altercations he had with both CNN reporter Oliver Darcy and senator Marco Rubio.

Infowars is the latest company to be served with orders to stop using the image belonging to Furie. The creator has also sent ‘cease and desist’ orders to a number of other individuals associated with the alt-right, including Richard Spencer and the operators of The Daily Stormer.

Furie also successfully managed to have an Islamaphobic children’s book featuring the character pulled from shelves. The book, written by Texas school administrator Eric Hauser, centred around a alligator named Alkah and his “minions” overtaking main character Pepe’s land.

Hauser quickly acquiesced to a petition made by Furie’s lawyers alleging copyright infringement. The book was withdrawn from publication and Hauser was compelled to donate the profits from its sales to the Council on American-Islam relations.

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic