Matt Furie, creator of Pepe the Frog, has received pro bono legal counsel from the law firm of WilmerHale for the purposes of issuing cease and desist orders to Richard Spencer, Mike Cernovich, “Baked Alaska,” and others. This is despite the fact that Furie allowed his trademark on the cartoon frog to expire in 2016 and “officially” killed Pepe earlier this year. Furie is now arguing that he intends to protect his rights to the frog even though he has failed to do so for years, and that in itself can mean a forfeiture of any claimed right. There has been flowery talk about “reclaiming [Pepe’s] status as a universal symbol for peace, love, and acceptance,” but the truth is that Furie, a liberal, is annoyed with who has used Pepe and has since raised nearly $35,000 to draw cartoon frogs where he had originally posted them to MySpace.
Indeed, Furie has not defended his IP for at least 9 years since it first became popular on 4chan, which means the lawyers know that any lawsuit filed would be frivolous. That is especially true since any internet search for “Pepe the frog” returns an endless stream of derivative works that Furie has no claim to and which he has not challenged once despite knowing about them. In fact, in an interview with Vice in 2015, he said, “I’m not making any money off of it, but it’s become its own thing in internet culture… I’m just flattered by it. I don’t really care. I think it’s cool. In fact, I’m getting kind of inspired by all the weird interpretations of it.” In other words, for all intents and purposes, Furie acknowledged that others were using his creation, and he essentially gave his consent to the internet. He cannot retroactively decide to reclaim intellectual property after putting it into the public domain. Just ask the estate of George Romero about Night of the Living Dead. So why is a major law firm filing frivolous threats now?
The answer is quite simple: politics. According to filings with the Federal Election Commission, Robert Novick, a managing partner at WilmerHale, donated $2,700 to Hillary for America in 2015, and Donald Steinberg, the firm’s Chair of its Intellectual Property Department, who is directly involved with this case, donated $2,950 to the Hillary Victory Fund in 2016. Another partner directly involved, Louis Tompros, happens to know Alan Dershowitz, a long-time associate of the Clintons. Other partners on the firm’s Management Committee who also donated money to Hillary Clinton include Mark Borden, Craig Goldblatt, Jamie Gorelick, Yoon-Young Lee, Howard Shapiro, and Steven Singer. Many other partners of the firm can be found donating to other Democrats, the DNC, and so on. WilmerHale boasts of having 1,000 lawyers spread across 12 offices in the United States, Europe, and Asia, so we can safely assume they understand that Furie has no actual case for copyright infringement. Again, he spent years not defending his rights and publicly declared that he was flattered by Pepe entering the public domain (“its own thing in internet culture”), so we must wonder if Furie sought out WilmerHale or if WilmerHale sought out Furie.
The reality in this is that the lawyers are hoping that the mere threat of a lawsuit will send anyone and everyone scurrying to remove Pepe the Frog from their websites. They know that a lawsuit would be a massive waste of time and money, but it takes little effort to draft a cease and desist letter… a paper tiger backed up by nothing. Even if Furie had not allowed his IP to enter the public domain and then consented to the same, there is such a thing as fair use, which allows a person to use someone else’s IP without permission. For example, someone writing an article about Pepe the Frog can fairly use an image thereof, and it is precisely that sort of use that Furie is claiming violates his rights. Furie and his lawyers are targeting only Alt-Right and Alt-Lite websites because they disagree with right-wing political views, but, again, it is doubtful they would waste money bringing suit, especially since they could be countersued.
Pepe the Frog became so prevalent during the election that Hillary Clinton’s website actually included an “explainer” on the “sinister” cartoon frog. Since then, he has also become associated with the Republic of Kekistan, which liberals are sure is some sort of right-wing Nazi fascist hate group, not just some trolling on the internet. This is why the Left wants to deplatform the cartoon frog. They have been utterly buffoonish in their failed attempts at attacking the Alt-Right—from using false DMCA claims to silence people to trying to deplatform Andrew Anglin—but here they see an opportunity to achieve a victory, or to at least pretend they have, without really engaging in battle. They can threaten a few lawsuits, force major personalities to remove Pepe from everything, and then put out some Anti-Defamation League-endorsed comics with Pepe the Frog, the new mascot of Antifa, which no one will actually read. If the leftists cannot silence you or make you disappear entirely, they will simply find a way to take away memes that prove too effective against them. That is the Orwellian nightmare in which we find ourselves today.