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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Settlement resolves lawsuit over Pepe the Frog paintings

By Michael Kunzelman Associated Press

The cartoonist who created Pepe the Frog has resolved a copyright infringement lawsuit that accused a Missouri woman of misusing the character to sell hate-promoting oil paintings.

The settlement is the latest milestone in California-based cartoonist Matt Furie’s legal campaign to reclaim his creation from far-right extremists who hijacked Pepe, mixing images of Furie’s “chill frog-dude” with Nazi symbols and other hateful imagery. On Monday, Furie sued conspiracy-promoting website Infowars for selling a poster that included an image of Pepe.

A court filing Friday says Furie and Kansas City resident Jessica Logsdon agreed to the dismissal of the federal lawsuit he filed against her in October. Each side is bearing their own legal expenses.

Furie isn’t seeking any money from Logsdon, who agreed to stop using Pepe’s image, according to a statement released by one of Furie’s attorneys. Logsdon didn’t immediately respond to a phone call or email seeking comment.

The statement says Logsdon admits she inadvertently and unintentionally infringed on Furie’s copyrights. It adds that Logsdon disavows any association with the “alt-right,” a white nationalist, anti-Semitic fringe movement that adopted Pepe as a mascot.

“As a political artist, Logsdon documented the 2016 election. Logsdon maintains that she creates artwork that promotes unity and laughter, the exact opposite of hate and violence,” the statement says.

Furie, however, viewed her artwork as misappropriation of Pepe’s likeness to promote hate and violence. One of her paintings, called “Antifa,” depicted a masked Pepe holding a rifle in front of what appears to be the White House, the lawsuit says. Another of her paintings, entitled “Pepe Patrol,” included an image of Pepe pointing a gun over a wall labeled “U.S. Border,” according to the lawsuit.

“Despite Furie’s efforts, individuals like Logsdon have misused Furie’s Pepe character and copied Pepe images for use in dozens of images sold online to promote the violent and hateful messages espoused by the alt-right fringe groups,” the suit says.

Furie’s character debuted in a 2006 comic book called “Boy’s Club” and became a popular canvas for benevolent internet memes. But the user-generated mutations grew increasingly hateful and ubiquitous more than a year before the 2016 presidential election.

The Anti-Defamation League branded Pepe as a hate symbol in September 2016 and promoted Furie’s efforts to reclaim the character.

Furie’s copyright infringement lawsuit against Infowars is the second such case he has filed.

Infowars’ website is the online platform for right-wing radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Furie’s lawsuit says he didn’t authorize the site to sell a poster that depicts the anthropomorphic frog alongside images of Jones, President Donald Trump, far-right agitator Milo Yiannopoulos and other right-wing figures.

Jones described the lawsuit as a frivolous “publicity stunt.” Although he stressed that Infowars didn’t produce the poster, Jones told the Associated Press he views it as an expression of political speech protected by the First Amendment.