Pepe the Frog's creator goes after the 'alt-right'

Artist behind co-opted cartoon issues a flurry of cease-and-desist orders and DMCA takedown notices.

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Matt Furie, the creator of Pepe the Frog, is taking legal action against alt-right sites and personalities that have used his image without his permission.

The alt-right stole Pepe the Frog, and now his creator is taking him back.

Matt Furie, the artist behind the beloved comic frog, has taken legal action against sites and people aligned with the white nationalist movement, serving cease-and-desist orders to Richard Spencer, Mike Cernovich, and the r/the_Donald subreddit, according to a Motherboard report Monday.

Furie's lawyers have also sent Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown requests to Reddit and Amazon, informing them that use of the cartoon frog's image on their sites constitutes copyright infringement, Motherboard reported.

Amazon said it respects the intellectual property rights of others, adding that it investigates IP rights concerns reported to it and takes appropriate action.

Cernovich called the action "frivolous" and said he had retained a lawyer to defend himself.

"I posted the image as a thumb nail to my article, where I described the 'alt-right' political movement, and disavowed any involvement with it," Cernovich wrote in post on Medium. "This Pepe image is clearly fair use, it's protected under the First Amendment, and any lawsuit threat is frivolous."

A Spencer representative declined to comment, while Reddit didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

In the run-up to the 2016 presidential campaign, Pepe became closely associated with the alt-right, a loosely knit movement of white nationalists and neo-Nazis who used the character to promote racism and anti-Semitism. As the movement grew more active online, Pepe was repurposed as a KKK member, a Nazi stormtrooper and, eventually, Adolf Hitler. At one point, Pepe's catchphrase, "Feels good man," was recast as "Kill Jews man."

Shortly after, the Anti-Defamation League added Pepe to a database of hate symbols, placing the cartoon frog in the company of SS lightning bolts and the Nazi Party flag.

Furie, who says he lost licensing deals as the brouhaha rose, wants to protect Pepe when he re-debuts. In late August, Furie and a team of lawyers shut down the distribution of a children's book that used a character named Pepe the Frog to promote Islamophobic ideas.

Updated at 5:35 p.m. PT with Amazon statement.

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