The creator of Pepe the Frog, Matt Furie, reached a settlement agreement this week in a copyright infringement case against the author of a children’s book which portrays Pepe as a farmer who works with a centipede to rid a swamp of a bearded alligator named Alkah and a bunch of mud-covered creatures who resemble Muslims clad in burqas.
Under the terms of the agreement, the author, Eric Hauser, must stop selling the book and must donate all profits to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil liberties organization.
The book is called “The Adventures of Pepe and Pede.”
“The Adventures of Pepe and Pede seems innocuous. The children’s book, released on Amazon on August 1, tells the… https://t.co/JrZAKcsVyF
— Arin Basu (@arinbasu) August 28, 2017
The amount Hauser will donate to CAIR is $1,521.54, reports the tech news website Motherboard.
Furie insisted that the settlement include CAIR as the recipient of the donation.
Hauser, who was until recently an assistant principal at a public middle school in the outer-suburbs of Dallas, has denied claims that his book is an allegory for opposition to Muslims, according to the Dallas Observer.
At the same time, Alkah, the bearded alligator in the children’s book, has a name which sounds very much like Allah — the Arabic word for God — and Alkah’s pseudo-burqa-clad companions appear to resemble female Muslims.
Pepe the Frog is a heavy-eye-lidded green cartoon frog with a complex history as an Internet meme. In a nutshell, though, white nationalists and other fringe racist groups have adopted the character as a symbol of their movements.
Also, some fervent Trump supporters — particularly in the bowels of the website Reddit — have commonly described themselves as centipedes. The term refers to a YouTube series, “Can’t Stump the Trump,” which features Trump in a Republican primary debate set to the sounds of a real centipede killing a tarantula.
Ukrainian freelance artist Nina Khalova, who illustrated “The Adventures of Pepe and Pede,” provided Motherboard with documents showing that Hauser had asked her to replicate Furie’s Pepe the Frog character for the book — and to draw Alkah with a luxuriant beard while wearing a robe.
“There’s an image in which Mr. Hauser specifically requests a copy of a picture that looks to be taken from a ‘how to draw Pepe the Frog’ website,” Louis Tompros, an intellectual property attorney representing Furie, told Motherboard.
“It was indicative of — not just infringement — but infringement that was intentional,” Don Steinberg, a second attorney representing Furie, added.
“Mr. Hauser admitted it,” Tompros told Motherboard. “There’s no question it was copyright infringement.”
There is also evidence that Hauser modeled Alkah’s companions after a drawing of Muslim women he found on the Internet, according to Motherboard.
Hauser claims he did not intend for his children’s book to be an anti-Islam allegory. It’s just conservative, he said.
“I’m not concerned with using those characters because there is nothing wrong with those characters,” Hauser told the Dallas Observer concerning Pepe the Frog, the centipede, the bearded alligator named Alkah and the creatures in the mud who look like they are clad in burqas.
“They’re not bad characters,” the former assistant principal added.
Hauser also said he believes the label of white nationalism “was put on Pepe in an attempt to silence conservatives.”
Furie disagrees. He believes Hauser’s children’s book purposefully used Pepe the Frog to promote white nationalist ideas.
“Furie wants one thing to be clear: Pepe the Frog does not belong to the alt-right,” Furie’s lawyers said in a press release obtained by The Dallas Morning News.
“As this action shows, Furie will aggressively enforce his intellectual property, using legal action if necessary, to end the misappropriation of Pepe the Frog in any way that espouses racism, white supremacy, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Nazism, or any other form of hate.”
The press release noted that Furie was particularly upset that Hauser had ripped off Pepe the Frog for a book designed for children.
Tompros, one of Furie’s attorneys, suggested that more lawsuits may be on the way.
“I think he is still disheartened by the way Pepe is being used in the media and is willing and able to respond to that aggressively,” Tompros told Motherboard. “That’s his plan.”
“The Adventures of Pepe and Pede” was released on Aug. 1. Amazon had briefly sold it but, as of late Tuesday evening, the website no longer had the book available.
A local uproar over the book caused the Denton Independent School District to reassign Hauser from his job as an assistant principal at Rodriguez Middle School.
Then, last week, Hauser resigned from the district, according to the Dallas Observer.
Tompros and Steinberg, lawyers at the 1,000-attorney firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, took Furie’s case on a pro bono basis.
In 2009, CAIR was listed by the U.S. government as an unindicted co-conspirator in a scheme that provided funding to the terror group Hamas.