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InfoWars host Alex Jones will pay Matt Furie $15,000 as part of a settlement reached Monday after the artist sued him for copyright infringement.
Furie’s Pepe the Frog creation was used without permission by InfoWars in a merchandise poster sold on its website during the 2016 presidential election.
Pepe, a popular webcomic-character-turned-internet-meme first created by Furie in 2006, was co-opted by pro-Donald Trump trolls and the far-right during the previous election cycle. It had even been declared a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League.
The artist initially struggled to get a handle on the far right’s use of his creation, but eventually began legal proceedings to enforce his copyrights against the right-wing internet personalities who had sold Pepe-branded products.
Furie sent cease-and-desist demands to the likes of Mike Cernovich, Baked Alaska, and neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer who all removed the violating images. The only individual served a Digital Millennium Copyright Act notice who refused to back down was Jones, claiming fair use of the image.
In response, Furie moved to sue InfoWars.
In a 156-page court deposition that was Jones’ defense testimony, he argued that Pepe was “a symbol of free speech” and boasted InfoWars would use the trial to “free Pepe once and for all.”
Before the case could proceed to trial on July 16, Jones settled. Somehow, they tried to paint it up as a victory.
“Happy to announce the folks suing Infowars over Pepe the Frog have agreed to settle, and accept a licensing fee of $15,000. We were originally sued for millions. Some people thought we wouldn’t fight the case. We did. We would only pay an honest licensing fee, and nothing more,” InfoWars’ attorney Robert Barnes said in a statement.
“The other side may have spent over a million in legal fees themselves. They wanted millions. They thought we wouldn’t fight,” he continued. “They thought we wouldn’t win in court. They thought wrong.”
As far as Furie’s legal team are concerned, however, the outcome is a straight victory.
“If anyone thinks they can make money selling unauthorized Pepe merchandise, they’re wrong,” the artist’s attorney Louis Tompros said. “Mr. Furie will continue to enforce his copyrights, particularly against anyone trying to profit by associating Pepe with hateful images or ideas.”
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David Gilmour is a reporter who specializes in national politics, internet culture, and technology.