Robert Mueller’s law firm Wilmer Hale, whose client list includes Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, is now representing Pepe creator Matt Furie in threatening to file a lawsuit against Mike Cernovich, Baked Alaska, The Donald subreddit and Richard Spencer for using the meme.
The law firm sent those involved cease and desist letters on Monday.
Javanka's deep state law firm threatens me with frivolous censorship lawsuit https://t.co/Y8sF7EWQzN
— Mike Cernovich ???????? (@Cernovich) September 18, 2017
“This Pepe image is clearly fair use, it’s protected under the First Amendment, and any lawsuit threat is frivolous,” Cernovich wrote of the lawsuit.
— Will Chamberlain (@willchamberlain) September 18, 2017
Originally from the comic series “Boy’s Club by Furie,” Pepe gained popularity in 2008 with the “feels good man” reaction image. From there sad, smug, angry, and a variety of other reaction-Pepes were born. The comic frog has been a staple of internet culture ever since. It gained more popularity on the right after Hillary Clinton declared war on the cartoon frog during her campaign.
Clinton’s campaign even went as far as posting a Pepe “explainer” on her website, which immediately became the top result for the meme on Google. “Donald Trump, Pepe the Frog, and White Supremacists: An Explainer,” the article is headlined, continuing, “That cartoon frog is more sinister than you might realize.” It was hilarious.
The anthropomorphic frog is a popular meme that originated, along with many other popular memes – from Doge to Scumbag Steve – on 4chan message boards. It is widely used across party lines by those who enjoy internet culture. While it has become a sort of unofficial mascot for those on the right and certainly has been used by some who aim to offend, it is still just a reaction meme.
“This lawsuit threat is frivolous, and moreover, contains a knowing falsehood. The letter links to an article where I specifically disclaim any involvement with the alt-right. Thus this lawyer has committed fraud by lying about my being ‘alt-right,’” Cernovich asserted in his Medium post responding to the lawsuit.
Tim Treadstone, better known as Baked Alaska, told Big League Politics that he has not received a letter about the lawsuit — but that his book was removed the Amazon store with no recourse to fight for the project he spent over a year working on. He provided Big League with the letter he received from Amazon, which stated that the company expects “that you’ll compensate this party appropriately for any infringing copies sold.”
“It was fair use, my graphic designer recreated a Pepe for my cover that wasn’t Furie’s original drawing,” Treadstone said. “My Amazon book was taken down with no appeal process. They filed DCMA takedowns — but when looking at the trademark on Pepe — it’s expired. It’s fair use regardless, though.”
Treadstone added that they also removed his ‘Build the Wall’ app from the Google Play Store, effectively crushing his livelihood.
Something that most meme-lovers know is that once their pet meme is embraced by “normies,” or people who don’t get internet culture, it is no longer cool. For this reason, Clinton’s demonization of Pepe and this absurd lawsuit by Furie may actually be the thing that keeps the smug frog going forever. Has nobody ever heard of the Streisand Effect?
Update: Previous headline stated the lawsuit was already filed. They have only been threatened with one.