The creator of Pepe the Frog, a benevolent internet meme turned into a racist symbol by far-right extremists, has taken an author to court over his depiction of the character as the Islamophobic hero of a children’s book, the Guardian reported on Wednesday.
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The sides quickly reached a settlement after just a few days when author Eric Hauser admitted he had infringed cartoonist Matt Furie’s copyright. Hauser agreed to stop selling his self-published book immediately and donate all his profits the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization.
Furie’s lawyers said the amount of money involved amounted to a mere $1,521.54. The book is no longer available on Amazon.com.
The book, ”The Adventures of Pepe and Pede,” is about the frog and a centipede who fight to “restore law and order.” They fight an alligator named Alkah to “bring freedom back to Wishington Farm” with buds from the honesty tree. Some supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump refer to themselves as centipedes.
Hauser was removed from his post as an assistant principal at a middle school in north Texas two weeks ago following the book’s release.
Hauser denied he had any racist motives, saying that while he knew Pepe was used as a conservative meme, he was unaware of its implications with far-right extremists. He said he does not identify with such groups and only thought Pepe was a funny and loveable character.
“Hauser's book, which featured a character named Pepe the Frog, espoused racist, Islamophobic and hate-filled themes, included allusions to the alt-right movement and was deliberately targeted at children,” said Furie's lawyers, who took on the case pro bono, in a press release.
Furie created Pepe in the early 2000s, but in 2015 the “peaceful frog-dude,” as Furie calls him, began appearing as a meme in far right and white supremacist contexts without permission. He has tried to stop the use of Pepe by right-wing groups before, including initiating the #SavePepe campaign “to restore Pepe as a character representing peace, togetherness and fun.” Hauser's book is the first instance in which Furie has threatened litigation to enforce his intellectual property rights.