Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, the founder of Infowars, has agreed to pay a $15,000 legal settlement to the creator of Pepe the Frog, a cartoon character appropriated by the alt-right that is now widely used in racist internet memes.
Jones signed the settlement on Monday with Matt Furie, the California-based artist who created Pepe some 15 years ago. The lawsuit alleged that Jones used the character without permission as part of a promotional poster also featuring images of himself, President Trump and far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos.
Last month, the judge in the lawsuit limited the potential jury award to $14,000. Monday’s settlement was for that amount plus another $1,000 that Furie said he plans to donate to the amphibian conservation group Save the Frogs!
Furie’s attorney, Louis Tompros, called the settlement a victory for his client, even though the suit had sought much more.
“Anyone who is going to make money using Pepe as an image of hate is not something Mr. Furie has ever authorized and is not something he is going to tolerate,” Tompros said, according to The New York Times.
“This was more than we would have gotten at trial, and it saves the expense of a trial,” he said.
As part of the settlement, Infowars agreed to no longer sell the image of Pepe without a license from Furie and to destroy all copies of the poster in its possession.
In previous interviews, Furie has repeatedly distanced himself from the people who hijacked Pepe the Frog years after its 2005 creation.
In 2017, Furie told NPR that the character was meant to represent the Everyman.
“He likes to take naps and smoke weed, play video games,” Furie said. “He’s a 20-something post-college roommate.”
By about 2014, however, users on the 4chan and 8chan internet forums began using the character to promote neo-Nazi and white-nationalist ideas, and later, in support of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.
In an article posted on Infowars, the settlement is described as a “[s]trategic victory for Alex Jones after Furie demanded over $2 million in damages.”
Although Tompros reportedly worked pro bono in the case, an Infowars article quotes Robert Barnes, an attorney for Jones, as claiming that Furie had “spent over a million in legal fees.”
“They thought we wouldn’t win in court. They thought wrong,” Barnes was quoted as saying.
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