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Intellectual property litigation involving Pepe the frog

Those in New York who enjoyed the antics of Pepe the Frog may have mourned the cartoon character’s death earlier this year. The laid back, self-indulgent amphibian gained a cult following after artist Matt Furie introduced him in an e-zine in 2005. For nearly 10 years, Furie and his frog enjoyed popularity among fans whose philosophies mirrored those of the lazy, hedonistic character. However, recently the artist turned to intellectual property litigation when someone attempted to use his creation for nefarious purposes.

Pepe was not a stranger to hijacking. In 2015, a group of white supremacists adapted the frog’s image, morphing it into Adolph Hitler and other figures associated with hatred and bigotry. Within a year, Furie’s easy-going frog had become a symbol of racism, and the artist felt he had lost control of his work. To combat this trend, Furie opted to kill off the frog and move on to new ventures. However, recently the frog made another appearance in a self-published book that some critics called a thinly-veiled attack on Islam.

The author of the children’s book was the assistant principal at a middle school in another state. After writing the book, which he claims intended to break through political correctness, the author enlisted the talent of an illustrator, instructing her to model the main character after Pepe. The characters in the story apparently work to defeat a bearded alligator with a name similar to Allah. Furie took legal action against the author.

Facing the threat of intellectual property litigation, the author quickly admitted he had used the image of Furie’s frog, and he halted the sales of his book. Like Pepe’s creator, those in New York who believe someone has illegally used their intellectual property for their own purposes have the right to seek legal counsel. An attorney with experience in copyright law will guide them in the best course of action for reclaiming the property that rightfully belongs to them.

Source: The Huffington Post, “‘Alt-Right’ Children’s Book Shelved For Blatantly Copying Pepe The Frog“, Priscilla Frank, Aug. 30, 2017