Matt Furie said that he was taking Pepe the Frog back from the internet; back from the channers, back from the edgelords, back from the spammers, and back from conservatives bored. Furie’s road to reclamation begins with lawsuits.
Conservative personality Tim “Treadstone” “Baked Alaska” Gionet and libertarian lawyer Mike Cernovich both made tweets recently acknowledging that lawyers from the Left have come for those using Pepe on the Right.
The creator of Pepe the Frog has officially sued me. What a time to be alive. pic.twitter.com/v7jtnfAxYp
— Baked Alaska™ (@bakedalaska) September 18, 2017
Here is the frivolous lawsuit threat sent to me by Hillary Clinton’s lawyers over Pepe.
— Mike Cernovich 🇺🇸 (@Cernovich) September 18, 2017
The original letter from the lawyers states…
“We understand that you have used Pepe the Frog in connection with your promotion of alt-right messages across various forms of media. […]
“Your use of Pepe the Frog in connection with your ptomotion of hate is unauthorized and unacceptable. Pepe is a peaceful frog who represents togetherness and fun – not hate.”
While Gionet attempted to argue about the trademark having expired for Pepe, various lawyers corrected him on the fact that the suit is about copyright infringement not trademark infringement.
The claim of copyright infringement, however, did not go down well with Cernovich.
Cernovich added a bit more to the plate than Gionet. He published a piece on Medium talking about Furie siccing the lawyers after him, writing…
“The lawsuit involves an image that originally appeared in an article on Breitbart. Transformative in nature, the article illustrated Pepe in a cemetery. I posted the image as a thumb nail to my article, where I described the “alt-right” political movement, and disavowed any involvement with it.
“[…] What’s weird is that I don’t even care about Pepe and hardly ever talked about him. Indeed Wilmer Hale went to the press on Monday in an effect to brag about attacking me. Rather than address this matter discretely, Wilmer Hale wants to file a high profile lawsuit against me.”
Gionet’s facile approach to the subject matter and flippant attitude did not sit well with attorney Ryan Morrison, who was quick to admonish Gionet via a simple tweet, reminding people that Pepe won’t be public domain until approximately 70 years after the original creator’s death.
Well, you stole his artwork and used it for a commercial purpose. (You idiot). https://t.co/zc0WN4RlXl
— Video Game Attorney (@MrRyanMorrison) September 18, 2017
Some quarterback commenters across the web have been attempting to provide armchair-lawyer expertise on the matter, arguing that Furie has no case and that Pepe has been used far too often across transformative works for the lawsuit(s) to carry any weight whatsoever.
However, Furie actually did manage to win a settlement against Eric Hauser at the beginning of September for a book that Furie claimed pushed racist, alt-right and anti-Islamic views. The book was called “The Adventures of Pepe and Pede” and wasn’t even about Pepe the Frog the meme, but since the name was the same and he was a green frog, Furie managed to win the settlement and forced Hauser to donate all of the profit from the book to the Council on American-Islamd Relations, as reported by ABA Journal.
Some believe that Furie has an open and shut case with winning against Cernovich and Gionet. Others believe that Furie has taken things a step too far and that he’s no longer abiding by the rules of the internet, nor respecting the sanctity of memes.