The alt-right has been using Pepe the Frog as the main symbol for their movement for a couple of years, and creator Matt Furie is engaged in what appears to be a fierce legal battle to snatch his creation out of their hands.
When the artist created Pepe as a non-political character for his Boy’s Club comic back in 2005, he couldn’t have foreseen he would become the posterfrog for a political movement centered around white nationalism, misogyny and racism.
Furie’s lawyers have issued several cease and desist orders to alt-right personalities and websites including Richard Spencer, Mike Cernovich and the r/the_Donald subreddit. Also, they’re insistently tracking down anyone that profits from the creation, having issued Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown requests to Reddit and Amazon.
The artist’s message is clear: stop using Pepe the Frog or prepare for legal consequences.
His quest has so far achieved a few important legal victories. In August they managed to pressure Eric Hauser into agreeing to a settlement after he used Pepe’s image for an Islamophobic children’s book. Furie’s lawyers forced Hauser to stop selling the book and made him donate the profits to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
While large companies like Google and Amazon have complied for the most part, visible alt-right personalities like Cernovich and Baked Alaska have vowed to fight.
Baked Alaska openly disputed the cease and desist letter on Twitter, claiming the frog he used on the cover of his book was not drawn by Matt Furie.
Yeah, in the same way it’s totally legal to trace over my Avengers comics and resell them.
False. The frog I used on my book was drawn and created by my graphic artist, not Matt Furie. https://t.co/VAGrAHXyfz
— Baked Alaska™ (@bakedalaska) September 18, 2017
Cernovich on the other hand, shared a letter from his lawyers to Furie’s in which they defend Pepe’s mishandling as “fair use” and wrap it up saying,
“Further, he won’t see a dime from Mr. Cernovich. Should you file a suit against Mr. Cernovich, we will be delighted to embarrass the fuck out of you — and set up a malpractice claim by your client against you.”
Meanwhile, as a symbol of defiance, people have been shitposting an almost infinite flow of Pepe memes over at r/the_Donald and 4Chan calling it the The Great Meme War II.
Although it would be almost impossible for Furie’s lawyers to pull down every Pepe meme circling the internet, they can put some legal heat onto alt-right personalities and all the companies making a profit from the character.