InfoWars has given up the fight to continue appropriating its heralded, anthropomorphic hero Pepe the Frog after reaching a copyright settlement with the character’s creator, Matt Furie.
Alex Jones’s right-wing website agreed to pay Furie $15,000 to resolve the copyright lawsuit just four weeks short of the pair’s jury trial date.
Furie filed the copyright claim in March 2018 after InfoWars co-opted the commercial usage of the frog’s likeness in a Make America Great Again poster featuring Jones, Donald Trump, Milo Yiannopoulos and a cast of other alt-right characters. After the website failed to remove the posters from its webstore after receiving several cease and desist letters from Furie’s law firm, Furie responded by issuing a lawsuit.
Jones, however, was determined to fight back, claiming that Pepe was fair use and Furie waived copyright protection by expressing unconcern for the frog’s appropriation in years past.
Originating in Furie’s 2006 comic book Boy’s Club, the character was being hijacked across the internet long before Furie pursued copyright protection in 2017. Even when the character began taking on a life of its own, the creator famously expressed a lack of concern over its misappropriation.
But as white supremacist groups took it upon themselves to elect the frog an unofficial mascot during the 2016 presidential election (and led the Anti-Defamation League to categorize the meme as a hate symbol), Furie began the fight to reclaim his character—and it seemed like InfoWars’ commercial use was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Given the creator’s delay in registering copyright, the issue of abandonment, whereby an intellectual property owner relinquishes enforcement of copyright, was examined under the context of Furie’s nonchalance over Pepe’s usage prior to its alt-right exploitation. The judge ruled that Furie would not be eligible to receive statutory damages or attorneys’ fees as a result of the delay.
InfoWars considers the settlement to be a win for the website. In an article announcing the news of the settlement, Paul Watson Jones wrote on behalf of the website:
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.
The Pepe creator and his legal team—Hillary Clinton’s law firm—were looking for a jury trial and over $2 million dollars in damage, but ended up with a relatively tiny settlement. Jones also saved hundreds of thousands in potential legal fees.
On the other side, Furie promised to give $1,000 of the settlement to Save the Frogs!, an organization working to protect amphibian populations and support conservation efforts. That’s good, we guess.