A copyright infringement lawsuit was recently settled between the artist who “created Pepe the Frog” and Missouri native Jessica Logsdon. The artist, Matt Furie, originally filed the lawsuit because he alleged that Logsdon misused the “character to sell hate-promoting oil paintings.” This isn’t the first lawsuit Furie has filed over his character, Pepe, though. On his “campaign to reclaim his creation from far-right extremists who hijacked Pepe, mixing images of Furie’s ‘chill frog-dude’ with Nazi symbols and other hateful imagery,” he also filed a lawsuit against Infowars, a “conspiracy-promoting website…for selling a poster that included an image of Pepe.”
The settlement came about after Logsdon agreed to dismiss the federal suit against her. In a statement, she admitted to “inadvertently and unintentionally infringing on Furie’s copyrights,” and added that she “disavows any association with the ‘alt-right,’ a white nationalist, anti-Semitic fringe movement that adopted Pepe as a mascot.” Additionally, the statement said, “as a political artist, Logsdon documented the 2016 election and maintains that she creates artwork that promotes unity and laughter, the exact opposite of hate and violence.”
Unfortunately, Furie didn’t see the message in Logsdon work. Instead, he “viewed her artwork as misappropriation of Pepe’s likeness to promote hate and violence.” In fact, “one of her paintings, called ‘Antifa,’ depicted a masked Pepe holding a rifle in front of what appears to be the White House,” according to the lawsuit. In another painting, titled “Pepe Patrol,” an image of Pepe was “pointing a gun over a wall labeled ‘U.S. Border.‘”
According to the lawsuit, “individuals like Logsdon have misused Furie’s Pepe character and copied Pepe images for use in dozens of images sold online to promote the violent and hateful messages espoused by the alt-right fringe groups.”
Pepe the frog was first introduced in 2006 when it appeared in a “comic book called ‘Boy’s Club.’” From there, the frog quickly became a “popular canvas for benevolent internet memes.” However, over time as the image was used its representations “grew increasingly hateful and ubiquitous more than a year before the 2016 presidential election,” so much so that Pepe was branded a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League in 2016 and support for Furie’s campaign to reclaim his beloved character increased.
In his lawsuit against Infowars, Furie claims “he didn’t authorize the site to sell a poster that depicts the anthropomorphic frog alongside images of Alex Jones, President Donald Trump, far-right agitator Milo Yiannopoulos and other right-wing figures.”
Alex Jones, who runs Infowars as a platform for himself, pushed back against the lawsuit, claiming Furie’s lawsuit is nothing more than a publicity stunt.