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Creator of Pepe the Frog is suing Infowars

Creator of Pepe the Frog is suing Infowars
Pepe the Frog has become a symbol of hate. (Kickstarter via Tribune News Service)

Pepe is headed to court.

Rather, his creator, Matt Furie, is.

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Furie, who debuted Pepe the Frog in 2005 in his comic "Boy's Club," has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against the far-right-wing site Infowars for using Pepe without permission in a poster for sale on the site.

The poster shows the "heroes of the 2016 anti-establishment revolution," including President Trump, Kellyanne Conway, Milo Yiannopoulos, Roger Stone, Matt Drudge, Infowars creator Alex Jones and Pepe. "MAGA," which stands for Trump's "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan, is written across the bottom.

A "Make American Great Again" poster for sale on the Infowars site includes a depiction of Pepe the Frog.
A "Make American Great Again" poster for sale on the Infowars site includes a depiction of Pepe the Frog. (Infowars)

"Furie did not authorize the use of the Pepe image or character in this poster, and does not approve of the association of Pepe with Alex Jones or any of the other figures shown in this poster, or with the 'MAGA' slogan," reads the complaint, filed Monday in the Central District of California.

Pepe first became a meme about 2008. It began innocently enough, with people using Pepe as a stand-in for their own goofy behavior. By 2009, Pepe had his own entry on Know Your Meme.

About 2015, things took a turn for the good-natured frog. White supremacists on the website 4chan launched a campaign to "reclaim Pepe" for the alt-right. As the presidential campaign revved up, Trump supporters tweeted Pepe memes and added frog emojis to their Twitter handle in homage.

After Hillary Clinton referred to some Trump supporters as a "basket of deplorables," the Republican presidential candidate's son, Donald Trump Jr., posted an image on Instagram showing the heads of Trump, Pepe, Alex Jones, Ben Carson, Mike Pence and other people associated with the campaign Photoshopped onto a poster from the movie "The Expendables."

"The Deplorables," it read.

That's when Furie first learned what had become of his creation.

"I had never heard of the alt-right or the white supremacist thing," Furie told the Los Angeles Times in 2016. "I don't know who their leader is, it just seems like a loose network of nihilistic guys posting white power symbols."

In 2017, Furie decided to start aggressively enforcing his copyright. Cease-and-desist orders were issued to Richard Spencer, Mike Cernovich and the Trump-centric subreddit The_Donald. Eric Hauser, a former assistant principal in Texas who wrote a children's book called "The Adventures of Pepe and Pede," which was accused of containing thinly veiled allegories for Trump supporters and anti-Islamic sentiment, settled with Furie out of court. Hauser was forced to donate profits from the book to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The same year, Furie launched a Kickstarter campaign to "save Pepe" and resurrect him from the ashes of the darkest parts of the internet. It raised more than $34,000, which Furie said he'll use to create a new Pepe comic.

Alex Jones defended the use of Pepe as a political meme in a video tweeted out from the Infowars account.

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"That's total fair use, that's total freedom of speech, it's political speech, it's totally protected," Jones says in the video.

As of now, the poster is still available on the Infowars store, with this description: "The establishment wants this taken down."

Furie did not respond to a request for comment about the newly filed lawsuit. But in 2016, he said the evolution of his character from harmless to hate symbol is "a nightmare."

Twitter: @jessica_roy

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