After Matt Furie's "Pepe the frog" character was co-opted and turned into a meme by Donald Trump supporters, the illustrator decided to fight back. His most recent move to get Pepe's image taken off of a popular gaming app acts is his most recent prelude in his war against the alt-right.
As Kotaku reports, Pepe icons and images began disappearing on Steam yesterday. Soon after, "Pepe images that players could earn by playing games like Fergus The Fly and, tellingly, Make America Great Again: The Trump Presidency have been replaced with a simple message: 'Emoticon art currently unavailable due to DMCA takedown notice submitted on behalf of Matt Furie.'"
Furie initially created the frog character in a 2005 comic titled "Boys Club," but around 2008, it began making the rounds on 4chan, ultimately becoming an alt-right meme and mascot. White nationalist Richard Spencer, Kotaku notes, was attempting to explain his Pepe pin when a masked protester decked him the day of Trump's inauguration, thus creating the "punch a Nazi" meme.
The move marks another win for Furie, who in August announced that he'd taken successful legal action against the creator of an alt-right children's book featuring his character. The book, titled The Adventures of Pepe and Pede, followed the alt-right's stolen mascot as he "sets out to make his farm 'great again,' and battles a bearded alligator villain called Alkah, regarded as a reference to Allah, the Muslim name for God," Newsweek wrote in late August.
Furie's lawyers settled with Pepe and Pede author Eric Hauser to cease sales of the book. They also compelled him "to donate all profits from the title to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an advocacy group for American Muslims," Motherboard reported.
More recently, Furie sent a cease-and-desist to the creator of a Pepe-themed hot sauce, who denied that Pepe's creator has any rights over the frog because he hasn't copyrighted it. Nevertheless, the alt-right would-be salsa salesman said he lost about $4,000 since Furie sent the letter.
Furie's legal team has had some success thus far in barring people from using the frog's image for profit, though his lawyer, August Louis Tompros, said the Steam takedown resulted from a tip-off about it being used in association with hate speech.
"A Steam user let us know that there were Pepe images being sold on the site, and that they were being used on that site by people in connection with hateful speech," Tompros told Kotaku. "We asked Steam to take those down, and it appears that it has done that."
The report notes that the creators of the Make America Great Again game are upset by the takedown.
"Matt Furie, the owner of Pepe the Frog (a poorly drawn cartoon frog that was hijacked and popularized many years ago by the internet, then came to public prominence during the Trump election) had a lawyer file Copyright claim against all Pepe the Frog uses on Steam," they wrote in a post on Steam's forums. "Apparently, even though our Rare Deplorable commando frog and Donald Toad emoticon (CLEARLY a toad and not a frog!) are our own original art & characters, just filing the claim means Valve must take them down."
"I guess Ol' Matty boy thinks he owns all cartoon frogs now or something," the post continued. "Oddly enough his 'Pepe' looks a whoooole [sic] lot like Kermit the Frog to me."