The legal drama surrounding Pepe the Frog came to an end Monday, as Alex Jones and his legal team announced they had reached a settlement with the cartoon’s creator Matt Furie.
Furie filed a copyright infringement lawsuit in 2018 against Jones and his media company Infowars, after Infowars used an unlicensed image of Pepe in a poster sold from 2016 to 2018. The poster, which Infowars sold for a profit, featured right-wing political luminaries such as Donald Trump, Paul Joseph Watson, Roger Stone, and Jones himself.
“What we asked for at the beginning of the case is for Infowars to stop selling the poster and to turn over all of their profits,” Louis Tompros, a lawyer for Furie, told to the New York Times on Monday. “Anyone who is going to make money using Pepe as an image of hate is not something Mr. Furie has ever authorized and is not something he is going to tolerate.”
Under the terms of the settlement, Infowars agreed to pay Furie $15,000 (all profits garnered from sales of the poster), which Furie intends to donate to Save the Frogs, an amphibian conservation charity. Infowars also agreed to destroy all remaining copies of the poster and cease selling images or likenesses of Pepe the Frog.
As Pepe the Frog grew in popularity in far-right circles, Furie has sued multiple people attempting to capitalize on the character’s notoriety. Furie filed the first of many Pepe the Frog-related lawsuits in 2017, suing Texas school principal Eric Hauser, who planned to release an anti-Islam children’s book featuring Pepe. Hauser initially signed a book deal with Post Hill Press, a distribution client of Simon & Schuster. Furie donated profits from that lawsuit to the Council on American-Islamic relations.
Jones, who is the only defendant to contest one of Furie’s copyright lawsuits, proclaimed that his fight was about more than just money.
“It’s about the First Amendment, and it’s about free speech. That’s why I’m doing this,” Jones said during a December 2018 deposition for the case. “I don’t want Pepe. I don’t want anywhere near it. I hate it. I can’t sit here and be called a white supremacist because I sold the damn poster and be defamed.”
Despite surrendering Pepe-related profits, Jones and Infowars have declared the case a victory for the company.
In an article posted on Monday, Infowars describes the settlement as a “strategic victory for Alex Jones after Furie demanded over $2 million in damages.”
The article also features a statement from Jones’ lawyer Robert Barnes, who echoed the victorious sentiment.
“The other side may have spent over a million in legal fees themselves. They wanted millions. They thought we wouldn’t fight. They thought we wouldn’t win in court. They thought wrong,” he said. “We will always stand up for the rights of the people, and will never be bullied by lawsuits, even those brought by big corporate law firms with $1000/hour lawyers.”
According to NPR, Tompros represented Furie pro bono (free of charge).
Editor’s note: the story was has been updated after publication to reflect that Eric Hauser signed a book deal with Post Hill Press, not Simon & Schuster. The key distinction is that Post Hill Press is a distribution client of Simon & Schuster, meaning editorial decisions and contracts are independent of Simon & Schuster.
[image via Alex Wong/Getty Images]
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