After Pepe the Frog went from beloved meme to unofficial alt-right mascot, his creator, Matt Furie, decided he was going to vigorously defend his character. First, he killed Pepe off in a somber comic, and then he started litigating. In 2017, he prevented the publication of a children’s book that used the characters without his permission, and he also sued Alex Jones of InfoWars for using Pepe in a poster featuring other alt-right figures.
While Furie might not be able to stop Pepe’s usage in memes and online posts, he can at least prevent others from making money off his creation. Yesterday, Jones and Furie settled out of court for $15,000. According to Vice, which first reported the settlement, Jones initially “vowed to fight the lawsuit on the grounds that memes were for everyone, that Pepe was fair use, and — according to court documents — that Furie had abandoned his copyright on Pepe the Frog in media interviews.”
In a lengthy deposition, Jones admitted to not knowing much about Pepe’s origins but upheld him as a symbol of free speech. Having to pay Furie, he said, would be like making “a payment to the Statue of Liberty or something, when we’re talking about liberty.”
InfoWars, meanwhile, is spinning the settlement (which cost the outlet money) as a victory, because, I guess, they didn’t lose more money? “The corporate press will undoubtedly frame this as a victory for Furie. It wasn’t,” Paul Joseph Watson wrote. “The result clearly represents a strategic victory for Alex Jones.”
By settling, “Jones also saved hundreds of thousands in potential legal fees.” Okay.
Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, the law firm representing Furie, told Vice that it will continue to defend his copyright but that InfoWars was “the last big target.” A portion of the proceeds will go to a charity committed to saving frogs (real frogs, not cartoon ones).