Pepe the Frog hopped out from the virtual world into a real-life legal dispute.
Matt Furie, the cartoonist who created Pepe the Frog, took legal action against Eric Hauser, the author of an “alt-right” children’s book that uses the Pepe character.
Pepe the Frog first appeared in the early 2000s and had no political or ideological connotations. Beginning in late 2015, however, people and groups associated with the alt-right adopted the cartoon amphibian as their own and used his image to espouse racist, Islamophobic and antisemitic ideas.
According to the Washington Post, Hauser’s book, titled The Adventures of Pepe and Pede, follows Pepe and a centipede — which is a popular Reddit term for Trump supporters — while they try to save “Wishington Farm” from an evil bearded alligator called Alkah.
WilmerHale, the law firm that represents Furie, said in a statement released on Tuesday that after Hauser was threatened with litigation, he agreed to stop distribution of the children’s book that the firm says “espoused racist, Islamophobic and hate-filled themes.”
“Under US copyright law, Furie is entitled to all of the profits that Hauser made by selling his infringing book. Instead, per the agreement — and at Furie’s insistence — Hauser will be required to give all of his profits to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization,” the statement continued.
According to Motherboard, the total sales of the book amount to $1521.54.
Hauser told the Dallas Morning News that he thought the frog was just a conservative meme and was unaware of its white supremacist connections.
The book was self-published on Amazon by Hauser on August 1.
Rodriguez Middle School in Texas, where Hauser worked as an assistant principal, removed him from his post after the book’s publication and its subsequent spread on social media. Hauser later resigned.
While this is the first time Furie has threatened litigation in order to protect his intellectual property rights, the cartoonist has been outspoken against the alt-right’s use of Pepe the Frog for racist memes.
After the Anti-Defamation League added the character to its online hate database in 2016, Furie began the #SavePepe campaign. He partnered with the ADL to design positive Pepe memes in a bid to remove the character from the database and reclaim Pepe as “a force for good.”
Furie later killed off the character last May, depicting the cartoon frog in an open casket.