The so-called Alt-right is a political movement which seems to be having a major impact on world events, most famously in the election of Donald Trump as President of the USA in 2016. The influence of the alt-right has been most noticeable on the Internet and particularly on social media, including Twitter. One of the hallmarks of this rise has been the use of the character 'Pepe the Frog' in memes. His various incarnations included being portrayed as a KKK member and a Nazi Stormtrooper.
Matt Furie, the creator of the Pepe the Frog is now taking legal action against websites and personalities aligned with the white nationalist movement, who have used his image without permission. Mr Furie complains that the negative connotations now associated with the image mean that he has lost out on license deals. It was reported by Motherboard, that Furie would be issuing cease-and-desist orders to individuals such as Richard Spence and Mike Cernovich as well as against companies which facilitate the infringement.
Reddit and Amazon have received the Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown requests, stating that the way in which they have used Pepe the frog infringes Mr Furie's copyright. The attorney, Louis Tompros, noted that these requests have been successful and Amazon have removed from their site a book that was using the image without permission. Google have also responded by taking down an Android app that used Pepe.
Mr Furie has not been so successful against individuals on social media who use Pepe as profile pictures or mascots. One such user has responded to a cease and desist notice by stating that his use of Pepe the Frog is fair use. This is a concept where copyright work is used for purposes such as criticism, comment or news reporting and does not require the permission of the copyright owner.
It remains to be seen whether Mr Furie takes further action against these individuals and it would be interesting to see whether such action would be successful. In any event Pepe the Frog would now seem to be so indelibly linked with the alt-right movement that even findings of copyright infringement in respect of its use would be unlikely to alter this perception.Posted by: in: Copyright, News